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Neck Pain Causes

A Personal Account

 
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My History

I had pain on the right side of my neck for most of my life. For most of those years I didn't know the cause, but in my case it turned out to stem from a lower shoulder / frozen shoulder that was pulling down on my neck. I also had TMJ on my right side as well, with closed ears and frequent sinus infections. (My left shoulder was higher which caused thoracic outlet syndrome on the left side of my body).

When I was in my forties, after having two children, the pain in my neck became pretty intense. It was hard to even turn my head to back my car out of our driveway. I finally decided that I was going to just keep seeing different doctors and other health care practitioners until I found some answers. I figured that somebody, somewhere had to be able to help me.

So armed with my health insurance card, I ended up seeing several chiropractors, several physical therapists, two orthopedists, two general practitioners, an acupuncturist, two massage therapists, two yoga instructors, a Feldenkrais instructor, a biofeedback specialist, five TMJ dentists, a doctor who was also a dentist and specialized in TMJ, a physiatrist, a rhuematologist and probably some more people I can't even remember. I had made a list in advance of at least 50 people to try, and each week I would make some new appointments. Not getting any real help, I'd move on to the next names down the list. I also bought hundreds of books and did extensive Internet research to help round out my quest for answers.

One doctor I saw suggested I go to a clinic to learn to deal with my pain. I declined. I didn't want to learn to deal with the problem. I wanted to spend my energy finding the cause of my pain and getting rid of it. My root problem wasn't my pain; it was whatever was causing it. To me going to a clinic was accepting defeat, and as long as there were still books to read and people to see, I wasn't out of options.

In the end, it worked. Most of the people I saw and most of the books didn't really help all that much and some even made me worse. But in the end, the rhuematologist, one of the physical therapists and a yoga teacher were extremely knowledgeable and helpful. I also found a number of gems among the books. So now I don't have any neck aches anymore at all, after having had the problem for most of my life. It took a lot of time and a lot of money to figure it all out, but in the end my problems were all perfectly solvable.

My Neck Pain Causes

There were a number of causes to my problems as listed below:

1. I had scoliosis with a lower shoulder - The lower shoulder was pulling on my neck muscles at the squiggly line point in the diagram below, making them tight. In the front of my neck, the tendons on the right side of my neck were all taut and distended. Odd as it may sound now, I asked a lot of doctors about this and all but one said it shouldn't matter - that the lowered shoulder was unrelated to my my problems. I had my doubts, but I just wasn't sure what to do about it. It seemed logical to me that my health issues were all interconnected, but initially I could not find any health care practitioner who agreed with that premise.

Finally I found a rhuematologist and physical therapist who worked together and specialized in ergonomics and body alignment. They told me that my lowered shoulder was almost assuredly the cause of my pain, confirming the suspicions I'd had all along.

The cause of my neck pain is illustrated below. My main issue was that my shoulder muscles were out of balance. On one side the muscles were high, knotted and way over developed, and on the other side my shoulder was lower with weak, stretched out muscles. What I ended up doing to balance my muscles was to do exercises and yoga postures to raise my lowered shoulder and lower my raised shoulder. My lower shoulder ended up being lower because of tight muscles in my right leg, which over time caused a downward pull on the entire right side of my body.

 

illustration of my  sore neck

Illustration of How a Lowered Shoulder Caused Headaches and Neck Pain

The physical therapist I went to found about 50 things wrong with my body alignment and posture. It was actually great, because then I had something I could proactively work on to solve my health problems. In addition to sessions with the PT, I bought all sorts of books on posture, trigger point therapy, yoga and body alignment. Armed with the knowledge from those books and my physical therapist's treatment ideas, I finally found a way to tackle my pain problems.

2. I had nutritional deficiencies - I believe I had nutritional deficiencies that were causing my muscles to stay unusually tight. In addition to my neck problems, for most of my life I'd had anxiety problems, heart palpitations, muscle tics and twitches, bouts with insomnia, mitral valve prolapse, a near SIDs death as an infant, allergies and fibromyalgia. It turns out that these problems have all been linked to my diet, and especially to magnesium deficiencies. When I changed my diet, many of these problems started to clear up in unison.

Magnesium is the mineral needed by the body to relax muscles after a contraction, as well as hundreds of other functions. So if you are short on magnesium, your muscles never get released and stay in a contracted state and you can also have a wide variety of seemingly unrelated health problems. (For more on this topic and the specific diet changes I made to get my muscles more relaxed, see my sections on Fibromyalgia Diet and Magnesium Deficiency.)

man slouched over desk at work   Many of us do not sit up straight when working on the computer.

3. I had poor posture, I used to sit hunched over a computer all day long. One thing I understand now is that whatever position your body stays in for extended periods, your muscles tend to "freeze" in that position, especially so if you are low on magnesium. So my neck would be okay when I stayed hunched over and the muscles were shortened, but as soon as I stood up, the shortened muscles would get pulled longer and go into a spasm. Correcting my posture was key in getting rid of my pain issues.

Continued at => Part 2

 

 

 

Related sections of interest:

Natural Treatments for Fibromyalgia

My Personal Causes of Neck Pain

Thoracic Outlet Syndrome Defined

What Causes TMJ?

Finding a Good Physical Therapist

 

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