Alternative remedies for neck pain
March 8, 2007 5:12 PM   Subscribe

HolisticRemedyFilter: Any suggestions/home remedies/herbal solutions/voodoo rituals for acute neck and shoulder pain?

About two weeks ago I woke up with a pain in my neck and shoulders. It's sore and stiff and generally annoying. To make things worse, I tend to have a nervous tick that's exacerbated by this pain. And to add insult to injury, I think the nervous tick is exacerbating the pain. I've been icing the area for a week now but this thing doesn't seem to want to go away. I won't be able to get in with a doctor for over a week. Thought I'd give the hive mind a chance to play doctor for now.

Does anyone have any alternative suggestions on how to treat this?

Thanks in advance for your help!
posted by kmtiszen to Home & Garden (21 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Stop icing. Take aspirin. Apply heat (e.g., hot water bottle and hot showers). Stretch.

IANAD, but this is what my doctor told me to do.
posted by milarepa at 5:26 PM on March 8, 2007

I think you should smoke pot. You sound really tense. You should also stretch. Clasp your hands behind your back, bend over, and let your arms fall forward with gravity, hands still clasped. Your hands will go over your head. That should help. It helps me.
posted by bash at 5:30 PM on March 8, 2007

I forgot: If you are using a messenger bag, stop immediately. They destroy the balance of your back muscles. They ruin your neck too. Try to carry less on your back, in general.
posted by bash at 5:32 PM on March 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

Just out of curiosity, when you are working at your computer, do you rest your elbows on anything? I ask because a while back I woke up one day with a brutal neck pain, I could barely turn my head to the left. No amount of stretching or icing or heating made any difference.

It lasted for a couple of weeks with no real signs of abating. As it happens I had a bit of time off of work, and miraculously, the pain stopped. I finally figured out that it was the nerve in my elbow resting on the edge of my desk that was causing it. A quick rearrange of my keyboard and a lowering of the arms on my chair and the problem hasn't come back since.
posted by quin at 5:45 PM on March 8, 2007

You really need to get an adjustment - I would suggest an Osteopath first up and a good massage to release the muscle spasm. To help prevent it reoccuring you really need to get a decent pillow - one that supports your head properly while you sleep - latex is probably the best.

Learn posture and stretching techniques to strengthen your neck - a good physio therapist will guide you here - and exercise like pilates will strengthen the various muscle groups that provide proper support.
posted by strawberryviagra at 6:05 PM on March 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

It sounds like you have a "pinched nerve" + "muscle spasm" thing going. The nerve where its is pinched is inflamed and swollen (which makes it easier to pinch), and the pinch causes muscle spasm which will further pinch the nerve.

If this is the case, the standard treatment you will get from a MD is anti-inflammatory (ibuprofen or stronger) to reduce the swelling, muscle-relaxants to stop the spasms, and a strong recommendation to stay flat on your back whenever possible.

Don't accept my diagnosis - go see a real doctor.
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 6:24 PM on March 8, 2007

After you've seen a doctor... I used to have awful neck pain, and sleeping on an ergonomic "memory foam" pillow has helped greatly.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:18 PM on March 8, 2007

get a massage! you will feel better almost instantly. ask friends for a recommendation, or some doctors will refer if you ask. sometimes craigslist or local papers list massage therapists. if you find a good one, he or she can help you figure out if something like ergonomics at work or sleep habits, or old injuries are contributing to your pain.
posted by pinkbungalow at 7:58 PM on March 8, 2007

I have a neck that's been on-and-off sore for years. It was never nearly as bad as you described, more of a locus of discomfort when I was stressed out, hung over, etc. I finally went to the doctor and found out nothing was horribly wrong. The news that I didn't have arthritis etc. made me (and consequently, my neck) feel better, but what's helped has been gentle, consistent stretching.

I spoke w/ a masseuse about what I could do about it, and she said the current theory of stretching is that it should be very gentle, absolutely no pain or straining, and just for a few seconds (5-10) but several times a day. I now try to stretch when I eat, so 3-4 times a day, and the whole routine only takes less than 1 min as each motion is only a few seconds. She told me to place my hand over my head and stretch in that direction (left hand over head, head goes left, same thing in diagonal and downward directions) but really w/ no pressure, definitely not "pulling" your head. It's almost as if the weight of my arm is all the force behind the stretch. She really stressed how gentle one wants to be when it comes to unhappy muscles.

It seemed useless at first, but after a few weeks it seems to have helped my general state of neck soreness.
posted by JulianDay at 7:59 PM on March 8, 2007

If you're in the San Francisco Bay area, I have an amazing masseuse who fixed up my back injury that I can recommend. Otherwise, I'd say acupuncture & physical therapy. Do you exercise at all?

I agree about the foam pillow, too. A good night's sleep with your head in the right position can really do wonders.
posted by miss lynnster at 8:13 PM on March 8, 2007

BTW, if you have an inflamed area in your body, heat is not good. The injury is already inflamed. It might make it feel better temporarily, but you're not helping it.
posted by miss lynnster at 8:15 PM on March 8, 2007

Passionflower capsules before you go to sleep. DO NOT take if you'll be driving.
posted by brujita at 8:17 PM on March 8, 2007

Yes massage and no pot. I say this as a lifelong pothead... it does have it's legit uses but acute neck and shoulder pain don't seem to be one of them for me. A professional massage can work wonders, even if you don't think it's a pain that would be treated from it.
posted by melt away at 8:33 PM on March 8, 2007

Is it just general stiffness, with a yeoow! if you turn your head in one particular way?

If so, IANAD, but I'm over here empathizing, and pointing out that you've may just have an inflamed tendon or ligament, with a side dish of "muscles all bunched up from the stress of it all."
posted by desuetude at 6:23 AM on March 9, 2007

Yoga. This Yoga Zone DVD saved my neck last year after an injury. I was popping pain killers and valium like candy, and then this DVD, plus acupuncture made all of the difference.

If your doctor clears you of any injuries and you're still having pain, I highly recommend acupuncture.
posted by Flakypastry at 8:50 AM on March 9, 2007

Chinese doctor (eastern medicine), and bitter herbal medicines.

I'm not saying Western medicine isn't effective, but they tend to treat the symptoms, not the root causes/reasons for our illnesses. (If you're sick, you're doing something wrong to your body, so don't just squelch the alarm.)

If you don't have time to see a doctor, just get yourself into Chinatown and buy something, ask the people there, they will help you.
posted by redhotchips at 9:44 AM on March 9, 2007

Response by poster: Thank you everyone for your advice! So many great suggestions, my neck feels better just thinking about it!
posted by kmtiszen at 9:59 AM on March 9, 2007

Oh, the end of my anedcote: Years of chronic stiffness. Then, my then-new massage therapist, after working on the recurring kink in my neck every time she saw me, referred me to her chiropractor. Who turned me back into someone with a relatively normal neck and shoulder.

(I believe her when she said that yoga would help immensely, too, but I just can't seem to get into yoga.)
posted by desuetude at 10:33 AM on March 9, 2007

Seconding accupuncture. I had the same terrible neck/shoulder combo pain, it was awful, couldn't even turn my head. One visit to the accupuncturist took care of it. If I was one to believe in miracles, my visit to the accupuncturist would have certainly qualified.

That was nearly 5 months ago and the pain has not come back (even though I still have the same repetitive motion job and bad posture while at the computer). Interestingly, aside from the obvious causes, she attributed the pain in that area to signs of a sluggish liver. Your milage may vary.
posted by RoseovSharon at 11:56 AM on March 9, 2007

No way! I've had a severe pain in my neck and shoulders for about a week... and a long-standing tic that makes it worse/is made worse by it AND use a messenger bag AND was resting my elbow on my desk as I read that I shouldn't anymore. And my dad thinks I should get a massage, and my mom (sorta) suggested accupuncture, and I pretty much ignored both of them. I did just put some Sportscreme on it with some positive benefit, but not much.

In other words: Thanks for asking, and thanks to those who have answered. This might motivate me to get some real help.
posted by SuperNova at 9:21 PM on March 9, 2007

NOT THE ASKER, but this might help future readers: Sportscreme was useless, massage felt good for a little while but no overall change, and bash's advice (the stretching motion, not smoking pot) makes it feel better short-term but the feeling doesn't last. That's the best result of what I've tried thus far.

Hopefully kmtiszen is having better luck than I!
posted by SuperNova at 11:33 PM on March 14, 2007

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