A problem that a lot of us run into because of our jobs, our stresses, our lifestyles in general, is neck and shoulder pain – often paired with chronic headaches. When dealing with these problems, the things I recommend most are physical therapy, chiropractic adjustments, and massage. Luckily, all those things are available at Integrated Health.
Sometimes, though, life happens, and it’s hard to get in for treatment. While there are options like hot or cold packs or topical analgesics like Icy Hot or Bengay or my favorite, Rock Sauce, none of these treat the underlying issues, and just mask the pain and discomfort for a short period.
When this pain and discomfort is caused by muscle stress and other soft tissue issues (I like saying soft tissue issues), there are some self-treatment options that can help tide you over until you can get in to be evaluated. The two that I recommend most often are both forms of self myofascial release, which sounds complicated, but it’s really not.
Have you ever seen or heard of a foam roller? They’re like a really thick pool noodle, and they’re used by people from all walks of life to maintain mobility in their whole body! The way I recommend using them for neck and shoulder pain is to lie on the floor with the foam roller under your upper back, perpendicular to your spine. Cross your arms over your chest and slowly roll up and down from just below the top of your shoulders to the bottom of your shoulder blades. Keep doing this for just a couple minutes, and don’t forget to breathe!
You might feel a couple pops similar to what you feel when you get adjusted, and that’s normal. Sometimes, when you’re really bad off, you might feel crackling up and down the whole time, and this usually means you really should schedule an appointment for an adjustment.
The other fun tool I like to use is a lacrosse ball! If you haven’t seen or used one before, they’re about the size of a tennis ball, but instead of being hollow, they are solid rubber. Standing with your back against the wall, place the lacrosse ball between the wall and your upper back and neck muscles, and slowly roll up and down, looking for tender spots in the muscles – you’ll find them! Gently rock over those tender spots or dig in like you’re giving yourself a massage. Do this for just 2-3 minutes, once a day max. If you’re feeling really froggy, you can try it lying on the ground!
Where do you find a foam roller or lacrosse ball? Well since they don’t play lacrosse around here, we buy them by the case and sell them for the same price you’d find at a sporting goods store. I used to send people to Wal-Mart to get foam rollers because they had the best price around. Well we’ve recently found a new supplier, and now we’ve got the best price in town!
So if you’re dealing with neck, shoulder, or headache pain, obviously my recommendation is to get in to see one of us. If you’re doing well and want to add some preventative self myofascial release to your routine, set up a Quick Check just to talk to one of us. When in doubt, roll it out!
Chris is a Southern Illinois transplant from Beckley, West Virginia. He attended Radford University in Radford, Virginia, and received his Bachelor’s in Athletic Training in 2008. Chris has several years experience in various industrial and occupational healthcare settings including injury prevention and management within the coal mining, tire manufacture, warehouse, office, and hospital industries. Chris has additional certifications and specializations in ergonomics assessment, physical demands analysis, essential functions testing, and corrective exercise. In addition to his professional certifications, Chris also has specialized training in Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization and Fascial Movement Taping.
Chris provides athletic training coverage to Southeastern Illinois College, Eldorado High School, Gallatin County High School, Galatia High School, and Carrier Mills-Stonefort High School. Outside of work, he enjoys outdoor activities, spending time with his wife, Melanie, and their dog, Loretta Lynn, and finding creative ways to work bacon into healthy dishes.