Waking up at 3:00 a.m. with neck pain is worse than hearing your neighbor's car alarm honk all night. There are the same questions of what is going on and how did this happen? What can I do? Am I stuck with this keeping me up all night?
You can recall the moments before going to bed. Everything was normal, just like any other night. The dog is sleeping soundly and you were relaxing before bed. There was not any sign of disturbance or discrete sign of irritation. You felt fine, maybe a little tired or stiff after a long day. Nothing was too unusual. Now you have this sharp stabbing pain in your neck when you turn your head. A constant dull aching pain is the best you can hope for.
Unlike the car alarm you can make this situation better. The first step is to get your trusty ice pack out of the freezer. Experience has taught you a large ice pack is invaluable. Even though small ice packs take up less space, in a time of need your trusty 10 x 12 ice pack is invaluable. You have already tried the frozen peas, but they melted too quickly and didn't provide the necessary relief. A bag of mixed vegetables sounded like it had better possibility of keeping its form longer, but it wasn't much better. A pound of frozen ground burger provides a comparable level of cooling, but it does not wrap or conform to the neck as well. Not to mention, there was an issue with your spouse after the burger defrosted and leaked onto the couch. You still hear about that one at times. Your trusty ice pack is priceless at a time like this. A glass of water and Advil complete the trip to the living room.
Lying on the couch you are looking at the ceiling and notice that your paint job could have been better in the corner. The lines are not as straight and clean as you hoped for despite all the time taping. Now is not the time to do anything about it, and nobody else will ever notice. It is 3:25 and you have been icing for 15 minutes.
You can hear your chiropractor or physical therapists words in your ears. After icing to decrease the inflammation and pain, perform the yes/no exercises. A small smirk comes as you think of them. You have unofficially named them the "Yes Dear, No Dear Exercises." You were told by your therapist to do them at home after therapy, and the only time you do them is when you are in trouble or getting lectured from your spouse.
Yes Dear is like you are nodding yes to your spouse. It is exactly like the big nod a child gives their parent when they are in trouble. The head movement is an exaggerated yes movement. The exercises are to be performed in a pain free range of motion. Stop before it hurts the therapist would say. Pain is not supposed to be a part of these exercises. Stop before it hurts. After 10 big nods, slowly lower your chin toward your chest 10 times and then tip it backwards 10 times.
After 10 repetitions of pain free Yes Dears, it is time for the 10 No Dears. Slowly look toward your left shoulder, stopping before it hurts. Then slowly look toward your right shoulder. The slow and controlled movements encourage the joints to loosen up. The increased motion decreases the neck pain.
You kind of remember the chiropractor telling you why the rocking motions decreased the pain. He was babbling something about a pain reflex, gait theory of pain, or rusty door hinge example. At the time you were more concerned with getting on an airplane the next day than to care why they helped. What you clearly remember is to repeat 3 sets of 10 repetitions, and then ice for 15 minutes.
During the second round of ice, you really wish for the electric therapy that they perform in the office. They place the cold sticky pads on the sore neck and muscles. The electric really worked well to decrease the pain and muscle spasms. After 15 minutes, there was a significant difference in pain levels. The cold laser therapy always helped too. Even though it just looks like a shinny red light, it does help. They claim the research shows all these fancy things, and even made it a point to give a hand out on it. Never read it, but they did hand out a pretty brochure.
The first time to the chiropractor there was nervousness about having my neck cracked. But the pain makes you consider every option available. There was relief upon finding about that there are other ways to adjust a neck that does not involve cracking or quick turning. The Activator or clicker just nudged the joints. It really does not feel like anything moved but it did work.
On another visit they tried the Drop Table. Laying face down, the chiropractor placed his hand on the "stuck joint" and lightly pushed. The table dropped two inches, and he claims to be nudging the joint to increase its movement. There was an elaborate description about velocity, acceleration, negative acceleration, and some other physics stuff that was never worth learning. There was the polite nod like you completely understood, but it still felt like your face was slightly smashed into the face paper on the table.
Either way the neck pain was always better afterwards. Looking over the shoulders, up, and down was easier. Within 1-3 visits the pain is much improved. Someday might be a better day to look up why all that stuff works, just not tonight.
After the second round of ice and exercises, it is time to go to bed. The pain has somewhat decreased. The intense dull ache has decreased and the sharp stabbing pain is not as intense. Flipping over the ice pack you notice the chiropractor's phone number on the ice pack. Nice advertising, much better than a magnet or bent pen.
Find out more about the Chiropractic & Physical Therapy office with ice packs.