Blog - How to manage a pain in the neck

Close up image of cello strings up closeHave you ever woken up with a really stiff neck – so stiff, that you have to turn your whole body round to see to look sideways? If you have, you’ll know just how painful an experience this can be.

This happened to me a week back, and it reminded me how much being in pain affects our ability to concentrate and get any work done. It all started when I woke up with a really stiff neck and thought, “OK, this is sore, but it’ll go away. It’s just the way I slept.” Funnily enough, this is a comment I often hear from my clients when asking them when they first experienced the neck pain we are trying to get rid of for them at work!

Now, knowing that it probably wasn’t the way I slept – it rarely is – I thought about what I’d done the day/night before and remembered I’d had a well overdue and long cello practice for an hour or so in the evening. Being aware that I tend to raise my left shoulder up a bit when playing (that’s the side where the hand is on the finger board, so tends to stay up and held in that position when playing), the chances were this was part of cause. Also, I’ve been busy with a lot of computer based work since the start of the year, so I’m sure a bit of neck muscle tension has built up with this, even though I’m conscious about trying to take breaks and have everything – desk, chair and paperwork -at the right height.

Practicing a Gavotte from one of Bach's cello solo suites

Practicing a Gavotte from one of Bach’s cello solo suites

What was more worrying for me, though, was that I was having real problems focusing on some work I was trying to get through. This, of course, was going to start affecting my productivity, and consequently, my earning capacity. Imagine what the impact of a few aches and pains must be like for employers with 100 staff, even if only 5% (5 staff) are experiencing pain to this level!

So, putting my healthy workplace hat on and practicing what I preach, I thought I’d better try and manage this better otherwise no work would be achieved. Taking Paracetamol had no effect whatsoever, so wanting to avoid a stronger variety of painkiller, I tried a wheat-bag. While a little bit helpful, this only gave limited relief.

I found going for a good long walk at the end of the day (which increased my circulation) and then having a really good laugh with a friend I met on the walk, (releasing endorphins), noticeably provided some much needed relief, but again, not for long enough.

Finally, I tried some acupuncture. Personally I like to have a maintenance programme of regular acupuncture treatment to keep everything balanced and fortunately, I had a session due. This treatment DID prove to be helpful, so combined with keeping moving , I’m relieved to say the acute pain has subsided and my neck movement is now  just about back to  normal.

So, what’s my point? Well, the moral of the story is this, take pain seriously. If you notice muscular pain starting to appear, don’t just wait for it to go away, take action. Think about what you may have been doing, use some of the simple home based remedies I’ve mentioned, and if they aren’t enough, seek out a health professional; there are plenty around, such as massage therapists, acupuncturists and physiotherapists,  who can help reduce the pain. And, as I found was the best option, even though you may not feel like doing so… keep moving!