I am a teacher, writer, animal lover and outdoor enthusiast.
My Injury Induced Pain
Over five years ago, while attempting to move a very heavy piece of furniture, I severely injured my neck. I still rememember the excruciating pain I felt as I knelt on the floor with tears streaming down my face. I knew I should have asked for help, but it was too late.
Around the same time, I was rear-ended while yielding off an icy exit in Colorado.
Between the two incidents, I was left with chronic neck, shoulder and upper back pain.
My physical pain led to depression, as I discovered I was no longer able to run or ride my bike, which were activities I had always enjoyed prior to my injuries.
In my desperation, I started to research ways to address my pain effectively. At this point, I was willing to try just about anything.
The strategies I will discuss in this article are ones that ended up working for me. Not only did they relieve my pain, but they also enabled me to resume my life as it had been prior to my accidents. These techniques essentially gave me back my life.
Strategies for Neck, Shoulder and Upper Back Pain That Worked For Me
1. Craniosacral Therapy
3. Therapy Balls
4. Computer Posture
5. Relaxation Techniques
1. Craniosacral Therapy (CST)
What is craniosacral therapy?
Craniosacral therapy is an alternative form of therapy developed by John Upledger in the 1970s. It is based on a cranial therapy approach developed by William Garner Sutherland in the 1930s. A craniosacral therapist uses light touches to the patient’s spine and pelvic bones to release restrictions in soft tissue and regulate the flow of cerebrospinal fluid in the body. This in turn aids the healthy performance of the nervous system and possibly other systems throughout the body.
Some of the conditions CST may help:
- chronic neck and back pain
- migraines and headaches
- stress and tension-related issues
- brain and spinal cord injuries
- post-traumatic stress disorder
- many others
My body responded very well to CST. I discovered and started this therapy a few months into my injuries. I initially went in for treatment once every two weeks, and then less and less frequently for about a year.
I marveled at how such a gentle, noninvasive technique could relieve my pain so quickly.
I felt a great release of tension in my neck, shoulders and upper back during each session, and left each appointment feeling extremely relaxed.
If you choose to try this therapy approach, be sure to find a practitioner with the required training or license.
While not everybody's body may respond to CST, I am among those who did benefit greatly from it.
Prior to my injuries and even for years thereafter, I had not paid much attention to yoga. I was an outdoor enthusiast—mostly a runner and cyclist.
But several years into my injuries, after hearing so many stories of the wonders that yoga could accomplish, I decided I had nothing to lose.
I went online and found specific yoga stretches that target the neck, upper shoulder, and back muscles.
The best part about yoga is all you need is a mat!
Below is the video I watched and used faithfully for several weeks until I memorized the moves. I can now do the stretches to my own music without watching the video.
Yoga Stretches for Back Pain Relief, Sciatica, Neck Pain & Flexibility, Beginners Level Workout
I am so hooked on these yoga stretches, I look forward to doing them in the evenings. That’s a far cry from the same gal who turned her nose at yoga for years!
Honestly, I can feel the good it does to my body and mind when I do these moves on my mat as I play relaxing music.
It’s a perfect way to end my day before hitting the shower and going to bed.
3. Therapy Balls
These therapy balls are amazing. I read raving reviews about them online and also researched users’ feedback on Amazon before purchasing them.
They worked on me the very first time I used them. I could feel the release of tension almost immediately.
They are firm enough to work tight knots in my neck, upper shoulder and back, yet gentle enough to provide a massage sensation as they roll across these target areas.
You can use them against the wall or the floor.
If you have long hair, make sure you put it up so it doesn't get caught in the friction.
Also, if you have a dog, be sure to keep the therapy balls in a safe place so he doesn't think they're his new toys!
4. Good Computer Posture
Most of us spend a lot of time seated at our desk in front of a computer. Having a comfortable computer chair with proper back support cannot be overstated.
It's equally important that you have proper posture while you're seated in your computer chair.
Some tips that work for me:
- Adjust my chair so that the computer screen is at eye level.
- Bend my arms at a 90 degree angle as I use the keyboard (adjust my chair accordingly).
- Use an armrest when possible. (I have an L shaped desk, and I sit where the two parts intersect so that I can rest my right arm directly on the desk surface to my right as I use the mouse. This alleviates a lot of pressure on my right shoulder.)
- Keep a straight back, shoulders pulled back as I use my keyboard.
- Bend my knees at a 90 degree angle, with my feet flat on the floor, spread out evenly (lower my chair if needed).
The yoga stretches I mentioned earlier help strengthen my torso. A strong torso helps me sit upright at my computer, which lessens my neck, shoulder and back pain.
5. Relaxation Techniques
Learning to relax throughout the day is such a critical way to keep your body from tensing up, which can contribute to more pain than you already have. It's important to find ways to reduce your stress and anxiety that work for you.
Specific ways I try to relax regularly:
- Keep my life as simple as possible.
- Play relaxing music, such as classical or instrumental.
- Try not to worry about things I can’t control.
- Pray and meditate.
- Give my burdens to God.
- Get plenty of sleep.
- Use a sound machine to block out noise through the night.
- Breath deeply throughout the day, especially when I feel stressed.
- Drink caffeine-free hot tea throughout the day (there are so many tasty and healthy varieties).
- Use a supportive mattress and pillow that work for my body.
- Be kind to myself.
A Lifelong Habit
I am happy to say that today, five a half years after my injuries, I am running, biking, and doing all the things I enjoyed doing prior to my injuries. Most importantly, I am not experiencing pain when I do them, and I'm not on any pain medication.
I've learned that to experience continual relief from pain, I have to keep using at least several of these strategies regularly. In fact, I’ll likely keep using them for the rest of my life.
For example, I now do my yoga stretches almost daily and use my therapy balls as soon as I feel excessive tightness in my neck, shoulders and back.
I’m continually mindful of my posture at work, and practicing relaxation techniques is almost ingrained in me.
I’ve become so accustomed to these strategies that I hardly think twice when applying them. They are now a habit.
Could my recovery have been quicker had I discovered some of these techniques sooner, or had I used them more consistently?
Possibly. But this has been my journey.
It was not easy, and at times I wanted to give up and just accept that I would never have the same quality of life I had before my injuries.
But I’m so glad I didn’t give up. I'm so thankful for having discovered these techniques that helped me get my life back!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2019 Madeleine Clays