Neck Pain: Get On the Ball
(Originally published as an article for Imbue Pain Relief Patch)
If you suffer from neck pain, there’s a good chance it’s nothing serious, and even something you can get over rather quickly. The muscles that run along the back of the neck join at their lower ends to the upper back and the shoulder blade. And these lower attachments are often critical to releasing the neck.
There have been dozens of times I’ve had neck pain or a headache, I’ve worked on my own upper back, and the pain has been gone within minutes or hours. I’ve also had patients with everything from minor neck pain to severe migraines who have gotten moderate to total relief with a treatment focused on their upper back and shoulder blades.
One reason this is good news is that the upper back is easier to work on yourself than your neck is. Another is that the upper back is less sensitive, less likely to get tweaked from enthusiastic massage or chiropractic adjustment than the neck is.
If my neck is cranky, I lie on my back on a carpeted floor or a yoga mat, with my knees bent and my feet flat on the floor. If the pain is obviously coming from one side, I start on that side of the upper back, placing a lacrosse ball right up against the inside border of the shoulder blade, near the crest of my shoulder. When I find an intensely sore spot, I lie there and breathe deeply, doing my best to not tighten up or resist the ball. Instead, I imagine the muscles are spreading, surrendering, and allowing the ball to sink into my body. Sometimes I try different arm positions, laying my arm either out to the side or across my chest, as this changes the angle of the shoulder blade, and may help get the ball into a more effective place. After about 60-90 seconds or so, the sore area releases and feels less sore.
Then I move the ball to another sore spot. I make sure to check the whole region along the inside border of the shoulder blade, the crest of the shoulder, and along the upper spine, methodically releasing every sore spot I find. I may also lift my butt off the floor to get more of my weight on the ball, and in this position, I sometimes roll up and down the upper back or shimmy side to side over a tough area. If the problem isn’t obviously one-sided, or the pain doesn’t seem better after working on one side, I’ll do the same process on the other side. Usually, at this point my neck already feels much better.
Then I’ll stick an Imbue patch on the most tender region I found and leave it on for about 8 hours. The patch does its pain relieving thing and also helps soothe the area so it’s not too sore from the ball. If I’m feeling lazy or don’t have a ball available, I’ll just use an Imbue patch, and very often this is all it takes. By the way, a baseball will also work, but the stitches make it kind of lumpy. A tennis ball is also okay, but since it’s hollow, it won’t go quite as deep (which is fine if the muscles are quite tender). A broader and squishier ball, such as a Yamuna ball used for body rolling, may also work, though it is a very different experience since it can’t pinpoint trigger points as well, but it does give more of a stretch.
For more information on the mechanics of neck pain and some diagrams showing where to focus, check out my neck pain article on the Imbue site HERE.
Copyright 2011 by Peter Borten. No reproduction in any form without permission.