Life changing lessons of living with neck pain

… these are my diary entries of living with an intense neck pain that left me with a tingling and numbness in the thumb and severe pain in the nape of the neck and a gnawing chronic pain the neck at one sore point. At times these flare up and make me incapacitated, at most times I can cope with it. In course of time, I have learned a few things that I could never ever hope to learn as a doctor, or looking at life from another perspective. I start here at the end of the first month of the experience and will take you through (you == reader or me myself reading at another point in time)

The earlier story of how it began are all in a previous post

The following are my own experience, some with rationale and evidence base discussed. These happened to me, your story will be different. This is not a medical advice, so do not depend on these without checking with your doctor.

In general five things happened and seemed to make/not make a difference

Physiotherapy/Exercises. — Did make a difference in the first few weeks. The pain was gone, a lot of relief. Then in the about the fourth week, the pain flared up again. But generally, a good massage of the back muscles while it is sore at the clinic does a world of difference. Nigel, who saw me through these illness period was a gem. He is a master of these things, he did his job well. The other exercise is to tuck in the chin, should work most of the time. I tried using the towel technique but that made matters worse.

Posture Control. — I found this very important. Keep the head upright
Sleeping Posture. — Sleep on the sound side
Sitting and working — Will probably need to give up my macbook and move to a desktop with keyboard and mouse. Perhaps use Mac Pro or Mac mini, good time to try out.

Wet pack/Water bottle. — This worked best. Good stuff. Took a long time for it to arrive. Basically, it was simple, and I should have been able to make one myself, but it worked nevertheless. The hot water bottle was dangerous, will not use it again. But this one keeps the local area warm for about 10 minutes. If someone can come up with an electronic device to reheat it every time the temperature drops, it’d be a great tool.

Meditation. — Great in theory, does not work for extreme pain situation. Useful when the pain comes down a bit. Focus on the breath first, and then focus on the pain. The pain, if mild, will even appear to go away for a short while. Make it a daily habit.

Medicines. — I found useless. I tried heavy dose combinations of paracetamol but they perhaps did not work as I wanted them to. Besides they are marked with liver and kidney issues, so best avoid them. The doctor prescribed me amitryptiline in the beginning which made matters worse!

(This story will continue ….)

Associate Professor of Epidemiology and Environmental Health at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand. Also in:

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