How can I alleviate a tight neck and back area?
June 6, 2008 3:05 PM   Subscribe

The left side of my upper back and neck are consistently crick-y, cracky and tight. Once in a while it's painful, but at all hours of the day, I can stretch the muscles and bones in the area and get some clicky sounds. Can you recommend ways that I can alleviate this?

I've had massages, and slept on a memory foam pillow, but to no avail. I stretch this area on one of those lower back dealies, which let me hang down, but to no avail.

I was in an ATV accident when I was younger, and I also used to keep my oversized wallet in my left butt pocket, both of which may've contributed to this weird crickiness.
posted by k7lim to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Seek out stress and anxiety in your life. Take measures to reduce their impact on your life.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:18 PM on June 6, 2008

Could be an RSI thing from sitting at a computer at a bad angle. Are you a lefty?
posted by meta_eli at 3:42 PM on June 6, 2008

i have chronic neck and shoulder pain that has been managed by an absolutely optimal computer set-up and daily self-discovered yoga moves that keep things relaxed and balanced.

i mean--i know some yoga, but i think what's really made the difference is doing my own "yoga" involving an amalgamation of established yoga and finding out what exactly stretches and relaxes the pertinent areas unique to my person. this means really taking the time to get to know my body.
posted by RedEmma at 3:57 PM on June 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

There are many stretches and exercises you can do which will address different muscles. One type of stretch won't do it all. You will probably need to do something on a regular basis. I suggest getting a referral for physical therapy where you can have someone diagnose you and put together a plan. I had similar problems and, while physical therapy didn't cure them, it helped a lot and my muscle issues are much more manageable now.
posted by underwater at 4:24 PM on June 6, 2008

My guess is you ripped some of the connective tissue there during your ATV accident, and that the muscles are tight and spastic to compensate for this (probably in order to stabilize your spine).

If I were you, I'd want to avoid surgery, but you might be able to relieve distress by strengthening those muscles so they can accomplish their essential work of stabilization without so much effort.
posted by jamjam at 4:40 PM on June 6, 2008

Chiropractic adjustments helped me. When your spine is out of alignment, the muscles have to over compensate, hence the tightness.
posted by bumper314 at 5:37 PM on June 6, 2008

Other than some type of muscle manipulation therapy, like ART(Active Release Technique), lots of consistent stretching and massages.
posted by P.o.B. at 6:11 PM on June 6, 2008

Response by poster: @meta_eli, yes i am a lefty, and i just realigned my chair. :)
i mouse righty though.

@redemma how do you know your computer setup is absolutely optimal?
posted by k7lim at 10:37 PM on June 6, 2008

Take note of this day, and if a year has passed with only worsening, this is big.

Are your hamstrings tight (can you touch your toes?), or can you do 50 situps? Lots of upper back pain is "referred" from the lower back. It's frustrating to find so little about upper back pain. Work on your flexibility, core strengthening, and abdominals.
posted by gensubuser at 5:40 AM on June 7, 2008

@redemma how do you know your computer setup is absolutely optimal?

three years of diligent experimenting with different chairs and monitor/keyboard heights... and research. "absolutely"... okay. i'm sure everything under heaven can be improved, but my shoulders feel better than they have in years.

BTW, it's a pretty cheap set-up: a glass desk with a keyboard drawer from Office Max (they don't carry it anymore, but it doesn't seem particularly special) and a ball chair from Gaiam. keyboard's a Kensington Comfort Type. i sit at this set up for more than eight hours a day, so it's pretty important.

i used to get massages every two weeks. i don't do well with group exercises like yoga classes. so getting a place where i can get up and do self-discovered yoga at intervals all day long has made an incredible difference in my quality of life. the ball chair really helps me keep moving around, which IMO is really important. it also helps to remind myself to sit *straight*--to push my shoulders *down*. i tend to have a body memory compensation that makes me hold my left shoulder higher than my right. the ability to move around, to do exercises every hour or so, makes all the difference in the world.
posted by RedEmma at 9:01 AM on June 7, 2008

I had back issues for about 8 years, from a combination of poor posture, working as a cashier at a grocery store, and leaning over 8 hours a day, and carrying 20-30 lbs of books/computer over one shoulder at college.

I used to go to a chiropractor once a month, and things were great for a week or two, but the pain always came back.

So I moved to seattle, got a job with great insurance, and asked around for recommendations for chiropractors. Instead I got a recommendation to an Osteopath and a Physical Therapist. I went once a week to the PT, and I've been doctor-free for nearly two years now. The Osteopath showed me how my skeleton was screwed up (fused discs, one leg longer than the other), and the PT showed me how my muscles were weak, and spending all of their energy keeping my back from falling apart. The PT gave me exercises to do, and really focused on specific muscle areas that were exceptionally weak. Over the course of two months, my back pain lessened, little by little. It's not the hocus-pocus that I experienced with my previous chiropractors, but this relief has staying power.

Granted, I'm not pain free. But I'm not pain free because I don't practice my exercises as often as I should. When the pain acts up, I remember my exercises, and over the course of the week, the pain goes away, and I usually get 2-3 months before it acts up again.

Now, I've been known to call chiropractors quacks (not that I'm represented there, but good ask anyways), but I do recognize that there are many out there that aren't... but as soon as you hear 'maintenance plan', get the hell out. Most of the things that chiropractors fix are preventable, and a good PT can keep the pain from actually happening, where as the chiropractor will only relieve it for 2-4 weeks.
posted by hatsix at 10:41 PM on June 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

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