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Neck Trio March 2022

Pain Prevention
Neither of us are strangers to neck pain. Though we’ve escaped permanent neck problems, we are re-learning a familiar lesson: prevention is better than a cure. Below are 3 neck treatments I’ve found to be highly effective for me. Proceed with caution, deciding for yourself what is safe for you; I have no credentials in any field but do a lot of experimenting on myself and I love the results I get with these 3 interventions.

1st of 3: Proper Head Position for Excellent Posture
The video below has great exercises to help you find a neutral spine and thereby strengthen the muscles needed to support your perfect head position. Maintaining your head over your shoulders and hips reduces the strain on your neck and low back. Some of the exercises can be done on the trail while moving. Tap “Skip Ads” to speed you along to the good stuff. We do these exercises almost every day. These mainstream physical therapy technics are a quick, easy, and effective way to regain and retain your neck mobility.

2nd of 3
Atlas Adjustment
A friend cured her many persistent structural issues causing pain throughout her body with professional treatment by a chiropractor specializing in “Atlas Orthogonal” adjustments to the atlas, the top bone in the spine. It’s tucked in under the skull, almost out of reach. I wanted what she had, a cure, so I made an appointment with a chiropractor with the same specific training. Given that my appointment was a month away, I set-out to correct a presumed misalignment myself.

There seemed to be no downside to embarking on a self-treatment plan, if I was gentle. The upside was that if I succeeded in making even small improvements, there would be time for the associated muscles to adapt to the changes in bone position before a professional treatment. One criticism of chiropractic work is that it often only involves moving the bones around without helping the muscles to follow, resulting in the muscles immediately snapping the bones back into their old places after a treatment session.

The practitioner in the video below indicates that his demo is for a “left correction.” My current neck discomfort was on the right side of my neck, but I was clueless as to whether I needed a right or left correction in his system. Not easily deterred, I decided to treat both sides of my neck. I strive for symmetry, so a balanced treatment made sense to me.

Initially, this was a ‘nothing burger’ for me: my neck was perfectly comfortable in the treatment position, I felt nothing happening during the process, and didn’t feel any different once I was done with the exercise. I did it twice the first day, in the morning and in the evening, with no apparent effect. Much to my surprise, the next morning, I recognized 2 significant improvements in my neck and had no ill effects.

Upon arising, I noticed that my recent neck discomfort each morning from obligatory side sleeping was significantly improved, as was the newer pain in my neck in the final seconds when lowering my feet to the floor from my daily, 5 minute headstand. Three days later, 100% of my sleeping position stiffness was completely gone and at the end of the first week, the discomfort from exiting headstand was almost non-existent. I was blown away by the profound increase in my neck comfort from such an imperceivable, gentle, intervention. I planned to continue doing the adjustment 1-2 times per day until my chiropractic appointment.

3rd of 3: Lateral Pressure
I made up my third neck remedy. I was inspired to experiment with this simple manipulation because it was the only direction of spinal movement not included in my new neck health program; it was instantly a winner for my neck.

This lateral pulsing gesture couldn’t be simpler. Lying in bed on my back, without a pillow, before getting up in the morning and again at night, I brought my finger tips to the back side of my neck and let my arms rest heavily on the mattress. I let my hands drift apart. About mid-length of the cervical spine, I rested 2 or 3 finger tips on opposite sides of my neck and felt for the slight vertical groove on each side between the most prominent, vertically-oriented, muscles.

Without tensing my shoulders, I dug my finger tips of one hand slightly downwards towards the bed and then pushed them into the neck muscles as far as they would go towards the opposite side. I held the fingers there a moment, noting how readily the tissues moved and any sense of density in them. I released the pressure of my fingers, letting the tissues spring back into place. I repeated the maneuver with the other hand on the other side. I liked starting in the middle section of the cervical spine because it was where I felt the most movement. I imagine that I am displacing the vertebrae from side-to-side though I suspect I am only moving muscle tissues.

I immediately noticed a significant difference in the tissue density between the 2 sides with this manipulation. The tissues on the right side of my neck, which was the side with pain in the morning from sleeping and from exiting headstand, were decidedly more rigid. They felt like they would never soften.

Incrementally, I moved my fingers up my neck, pausing at what seemed like the next vertebrae, and repeated the lateral pressure on each side a few times. I slowly worked my way up and down the length of my neck with my fingers, noting side-to-side differences in tissue density and differences at various regions in my neck.

After a few days of performing this gentle, lateral tissue manipulation of my neck, morning and night, the resistant tissues in the seemingly immobile area of my neck had completely softened. With almost no effort, my sense of the tissues were the same side-to-side the full length of my cervical spine. I was delighted to have released tension in my neck with so little time and effort and zero discomfort—it was like they were waiting for a reason to let go.

No doubt doing this lateral neck manipulation contributed to the rapid improvement in my neck comfort when exiting headstand and upon awaking from sleeping though my use of it overlapped with the atlas adjustment. I am convinced, however, that this treatment added to my neck health because I could feel the change in the quality of the tissues under my finger tips.

Just Maybe…
I was gobsmacked by these simple interventions! I’d had the worst buttock pain on a hike for months on a Friday, began my atlas manipulation efforts the next morning, on Saturday, and had no more severe pain on the trail when I began hiking again on Sunday. Just incredible!

On that preceding Friday, I had dropped to the ground on the trail in pain, spending 15 minutes waiting for it to recede while treating my lumbar discs with cobra-styled push-ups and using a lacrosse ball to trigger-point gluteal muscle pain in my right buttock. I then managed to slowly walk the last 2 miles to the truck. The next day, Saturday, was our biking day, and I began doing the simple exercise for re-aligning the atlas. I didn’t feel any effects but had begun the DIY treatment in anticipation of a professional treatment in a month with the outlandish hope that such an adjustment would improve my high blood pressure and buttock pain. There was nothing to lose and I was at the “leave no stone unturned” stage with both of those chronic difficulties.

Even more stunning was on Thursday, after completing our 40 miles of hiking for the week in 5 days, I hadn’t had any dysfunction on the trail on any of those days, none. My butt muscles were stiff and cranky in the evenings but hadn’t hampered my performance. I hoped that my wild leap towards atlas realignment that was improving my neck health was rippling the length of my spine and righting some wrong in my pelvis. If I had made such significant improvements in my comfort and function with a few minutes a day of self-guided treatments, perhaps a chiropractor using the same model would be able to completely remedy my disabling structural issues in a month. Time would tell if the intervention had any effect on my high blood pressure.

That’s it! That’s my new neck health program for now—be safe and enjoy!

The professional adjustment a month later of my somewhat misaligned atlas didn’t seem to add to my healing my butt muscle issues. I was no worse, but seemingly, no better for it. The uplifting chiropractor was however stunned by my flexibility, mobility, and great looking bones, joint spaces, and ligaments. What’s not to love about that! And his x-rays put to rest the concern of some that our active lifestyle had worn-out my body and surely my hip joints had degenerated. I didn’t share that concern, but it was nice to have the science verify my beliefs.