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neck popping.
February 26, 2012 10:40 AM   Subscribe

neck pain/popping advice needed

For those new to my story (or if you're a returning viewer, welcome back), I posted this thread roughly 3 months ago.

http://ask.metafilter.com/200805/Neck-pain-please-help

Fast forward to 2-26-12, and I'm still in the same boat... but I'm looking for proper direction as to who can help me along in eradicating/greatly reducing my bad neck popping habit.

What's changed since the last thread? I'm now in school once again and taking a lighter load of 3 classes. I have a true part-time job working at Kroger's and do some computer work on the side. All of that sounds like good progress and it is, but I'm still barely surviving with all of that on my plate.

The Kroger's job is nice (Dairy Dept) in terms of not being broke constantly (which was just a complete bummer and I felt shitty a lot of the time), but it's very physically grueling. The physically grueling part is a lot of the reason I'm posting today for advice. The job is a high-stress one (for me) and as a result I'm popping my neck even more than 3 months ago. This combined with my usual bad neck popping on my off-days and school has me thinking it's not too long before I'm popping more than my prescription anti-inflammatories and muscle relaxants can handle (I'm not a big fan of being on them, but I have no choice right now). I worry a lot about that day because when that day hits, if I don't start doing stuff to help me stop popping my neck, it's going to be a world of trouble for me. I'm 25 going on 26, but it feels like I'm 35 sometimes.

A lot of good advice was given in the last thread. I took some of you up on it. I briefly went and saw a RMT (massage therapist) per empatterson and a few others suggestions. He was expensive and not covered by insurance at first. It was $120 a pop (no pun intended, lol) and I stopped seeing him after 1 visit. That and he didn't exactly reply to my emails/inquiries on time, so I became disenchanted with him and gave up on that front.

New things I've tried include seeing a pain management doctor, who gave me some nerve-blocking shots at the time and a prescription for Skelaxin 800 mg (to take twice a day). I take it w/ my anti-inflammatory Cataflam 50 mg, which is also twice a day. He more or less said I was on one of the best anti-inflammatories already (Cataflam) and checked me out physically and said nothing appeared to be out of whack in terms of response times, neurological reaction times, etc. So I kinda was disappointed with him and I have an appointment with him in like a month or so, but I guess I've reached my limit with him.

The point of all of the above was to get to where I wanted to go in this post and that is I really do think that my neck and back muscles have been so ****ed out of proportion by my excessive daily popping, that probably more than one muscle system is out of balance back there. A BIG part of why I pop my neck so much now is to provide relief (even if it's for a few seconds) and as a reaction now to my muscles that just aren't holding up very well to working 25+ hours a week and doing everything else like school and homework. I realize, that in the end, the main problem does lie with me...but I'd really really like some help along the way. I could fly the best doctors in the world in to my house and it would still lie with me for at least 50% or more of the legwork.

Who would I go see to work on re-conditioning or balancing out my muscle groups again? I know some of you mentioned that last time, but I don't really know who to go to or who can help me. I'm at the end of my rope medicinally (without just sedating me to the point where I can't move, and certainly won't pop if I'm sedated like an elephant) and feel like my only option is with alternative doctors or non-medicinal prescribing doctors.

Thanks for reading all of that and I really really appreciate any advice in advance,

Travis
posted by isoman2kx to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
I should mention also, I think it's getting worse. I've woken up twice in the last 2 weeks walking around grimacing because it felt like I've been punched like hell in the stomach. Does it sound out of the realm of possibilities to think that my abdomen muscle groups are trying to compensate for a weakened neck/back system?
posted by isoman2kx at 10:42 AM on February 26, 2012


I'm at the end of my rope medicinally (without just sedating me to the point where I can't move, and certainly won't pop if I'm sedated like an elephant) and feel like my only option is with alternative doctors or non-medicinal prescribing doctors.

You saw the RMT once and the pain management doctor a very limited number of times. The RMT is probably not responding to email because they're not getting paid for that time, if you're asking medical questions via email. You're also jumping to some conclusions with your pain management physician if you think you've "reached my limit with him" after such a short time.

The reality of pain management is that it's not going to be fixed overnight and it's probably going to cost you some money and you have to stick with it. Your disappointment that they're not fixing you immediately is normal, however you need to realize that alternative medicine/AskMe is not a substitution for a trained professional working with you over time.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 10:57 AM on February 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Man, I feel you. I am currently on large doses of ibuprofen and muscle relaxers.

He was expensive and not covered by insurance at first.

Does this mean he'll be covered now? Did it work? Some people - especially medical people - are just not email people and especially won't answer specific medical questions without seeing you. I think you need to be more patient if he did help you.

Do you see a therapist to help you with some of the stress that is causing the pain in the first place? I know the pain itself is stressful because I get into a feedback loop of OMG is this going to end? Is today going to be fucked up too because I'm in too much pain to do anything? If I have an hour or two of feeling decent, I celebrate that.
posted by desjardins at 11:03 AM on February 26, 2012


Also, if I usually feel better in the morning vs. night, I try to shift my activities to the morning.
posted by desjardins at 11:10 AM on February 26, 2012


It seems like your neck popping is a source of stress as much as a symptom. I pop my neck a lot, and I don't give a fuck about it. Have you tried that?

I've woken up twice in the last 2 weeks walking around grimacing because it felt like I've been punched like hell in the stomach.

What does that have to do with popping your neck? You have vital organs in your abdomen. Intense pain there warrants a visit to the emergency room.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:17 AM on February 26, 2012


Can you clarify what you mean by "popping your neck"? I pop my joints all the time and as I understand it, that doesn't do any damage. Where'd you get this idea that you're destroying your neck?
posted by losvedir at 11:34 AM on February 26, 2012


I just signed up to write this.

I read your previous post when it was first made. I thought "that's me" and finally decided to do something about my pain. I read the book suggested by "so much modern time":

7 Steps to a Pain-Free Life: How to Rapidly Relieve Back and Neck Pain

Three days after getting it, I felt better than I have in a decade. Now I can actually turn my head around while driving and look behind me! And it's SO EASY and IMMEDIATELY relieving. I actually cried when I started doing the first exercise because I felt so much better.

Really. Just get the book.
posted by flimflam at 11:47 AM on February 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Who would I go see to work on re-conditioning or balancing out my muscle groups again?

A licensed physical therapist and/or massage therapist can help with this. Fortunately, most insurance covers at least some physical therapy, so that'd be my first suggestion: go back to your pain doctor and get a referral for PT. You might also look for a more affordable massage therapist, if yours isn't covered by insurance -- $120 for a session seems high to me, unless it's just that massage is more expensive in your area.

Also, I'll tell you something my friend (a massage therapist) told me: many patients show up and just go fix me! They don't bother to follow the therapist's exercise/stretching instructions, they're not willing to make lifestyle changes, and they stick with it for a session or maybe a month and then quit because they're not any better. Don't be that guy. Fixing soft-tissue problems takes time, and if you want to get better you must participate in your own care. That means patience, combined with a willingness to make changes on your own time in order to find relief.

A BIG part of why I pop my neck so much now is to provide relief (even if it's for a few seconds) and as a reaction now to my muscles that just aren't holding up very well to working 25+ hours a week and doing everything else like school and homework.

Are you exercising? I know you've got a full schedule, but adding two or three hours of free-weight work per week (preferably under the supervision of a licensed physical therapist) might help with your muscle imbalance and chronic pain problems. It'll also help you build better posture and awareness of your own body, which you'll need if you intend to keep these problems from coming back. As a bonus, it'll make you stronger, which will help with the long hours at work. If you're not interested in that, I'd at least suggest some stretching and self-care along the lines of the exercises in Treat Your Own Neck or Conquering Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (or, on preview, the book flimflam recommends).

Lastly, I agree that the neck-popping is probably a symptom of your neck and back problems, not the cause. Don't concentrate too much on that -- concentrate on eliminating the pain and tension that's making you pop your neck constantly in search of relief. Once the pain is gone, your neck-popping habit will be a lot easier to break.
posted by vorfeed at 11:56 AM on February 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


It sounds to me like you are very stressed and/or possibly depressed. That often has a very close relationship with neck and back pain (and it's a downward spiral--stress causes or increases the back and neck pain, then the pain makes you feel even more stressed; rinse & repeat).

I might suggest seeking treatment for the stress and/or depression. If you are a student, your school almost certainly will have free or low-cost counseling.

Also, along those same lines, I found this book very, very helpful.
posted by flug at 3:47 PM on February 26, 2012


losvedir:

Just the amount of repeated popping I do daily. Tilting/popping neck one way then tilting/popping my neck to my shoulder the other way. Well, I don't know about destroying... but I've likely lost some tone that I'll never get back. I don't know how constantly stretching the muscles and neck joints beyond points they're used to during most waking moments of the day is a good thing for my neck.

filmfalm:

I have that book, but haven't tried anything in it yet because I assumed exercise was useless for my neck
posted by isoman2kx at 3:16 PM on February 28, 2012


Rodrigo:

For a guy that has a private practice, you'd think he would reply to email more. I'm not asking him medical questions other than when can we meet next? I'm not asking a lot of the guy, just to actually reply to his patients if he wants their continued business. It's not like he has a 12 hour job in the medical center.

desjardins:

I do see a CBT, but we can't always meet once a week like I really want due to my schedule and other time constraints. It's more for talk therapy now. I don't know how much good we're really doing for my neck. I like her as a talk therapist and we try to work on my neck sorta when we can. May I ask what you're on the ibuprofen and muscle relaxers for? If you wouldn't mind me shooting you a msg, I'd like to definitely have someone for empathy alone.

vorfeed:

Well, for the cost issue of it... I don't think a lot of RMT's are covered by the insurance fully until some sort of deductible is met. At least that's been my experience so far. I believe if I went back to him (or a RMT in general), that I'd g et it covered. It's a hit to the wallet until then, but not an insurmountable hit.

In terms of physical therapy, you're right... I haven't stuck it out and tried it for about a month before calling it off. Now, I worry about adding exercise and physical therapy to the routine since I have a very physically-demanding job already. Will physical therapy and the exercises, etc make things worse before they get better? Are these valid concerns or excuses from me?
posted by isoman2kx at 3:25 PM on February 28, 2012


For a guy that has a private practice, you'd think he would reply to email more. I'm not asking him medical questions other than when can we meet next? I'm not asking a lot of the guy, just to actually reply to his patients if he wants their continued business. It's not like he has a 12 hour job in the medical center.

A lot of massage people are kind of crunchy-granola... technology may not be your RMT's strong point. Have you tried calling instead?

In terms of physical therapy, you're right... I haven't stuck it out and tried it for about a month before calling it off. Now, I worry about adding exercise and physical therapy to the routine since I have a very physically-demanding job already. Will physical therapy and the exercises, etc make things worse before they get better?

In my neck-pain experience, weight training and stretching did not make things worse before they got better. I had pretty much the same experience flimflam did: the exercises always provided relief, up to and including instant relief.

The one caveat I would give you is that overtraining or using poor form when lifting weights can lead to injury. That's why I suggested starting a weight training program under the supervision of a PT. Also, if you're serious about it weight training will make you tired, which won't help with the physically-demanding job in the short run... but the point is to gain strength so that physically-demanding tasks don't run you down so much. The first couple of weeks are always hard, but your body will start to adjust after that. IMHO weight training is an amazing tradeoff in the medium-to-long run (if you're doing it right and eating/resting right it'll start to pay off in 6 months or less).

I very seriously doubt you'll get tired or be hurt if you do the stretching exercises in the books, though... just be gentle and listen to your body, and stop if it starts to feel wrong.

Are these valid concerns or excuses from me?

There's only one way to find out!
posted by vorfeed at 6:55 PM on February 28, 2012


cool. I'll give PT another round then when Spring Break starts next week. thanks a lot vorfeed!
posted by isoman2kx at 7:10 PM on February 29, 2012


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