When you get a stiff neck or shoulder, it is unlike most types of pain; it is a very sharp, piercing pain. You don’t have to suffer from chronic pain normally to occasionally suffer from a stiff neck or stiff shoulder. But if you do have chronic pain in another area, such as the low back, you are likely to fear that a stiff neck or stiff shoulder is a more permanent adversity with which to deal with. By a "stiff shoulder" I am referring to the muscles on the shoulder blade, not the joint itself.
I have greatly benefited from reading the work of John E Sarno MD, and his theories for the Mindbody Connection. One of the most compelling pieces of evidence was when he studied a large group of people with and without pain, he found that only some of the people with pain had degeneration in the spine, and only some with spine degeneration had pain. This concluded that spine degeneration did not cause chronic pain.
It’s a controversial theory, but many thousands of people have managed to eliminate their chronic pain simply from knowing this. As a result of Sarno’s work, I no longer fear pain, and can easily get rid of stiff neck and shoulder pain every time.
Dr Sarno also states that people with chronic pain are more likely to have other temporary pain, such as neck or shoulder pain.
Many experts will attribute neck and shoulder pain to pinched nerves or torn muscle. But in my experience, this assumption has always proven to be excessively over-cautious. I know this because the pain has never lasted more than two or three days. Most of the time, it has been caused by sleeping in an awkward position, and most often in a draft.
But you do not have to suffer with neck or shoulder pain for long at all. If it hurts more when you turn your head, you are likely to think that turning your head will damage the area. Once you have had confirmation from your doctor that the pain is not due to anything serious, turning your head will only mean it takes a bit longer for the muscle to heal.
As I have a history of chronic pain, I always wait a few days before troubling a doctor, because 99% of the time, it really will be nothing to worry about. Actually, make that 100%! It has never been anything to worry about!
I personally have only ever found one effective way to heal this type of pain, and am horrified to find lots of advice online stating that you should eliminate this very severe, sharp pain by exercising the area!
Regular exercise is likely to prevent it from happening in the first place, because the muscles will then be more flexible, but never has exercise to the neck or shoulder when it is in so much pain, been beneficial. In fact it is likely to worsen the pain and delay healing.
Heat and rest to the area is an effective solution for most people with stiff neck and frozen shoulder pain.
Once the pain subsides, it is safe to try some gentle exercises, but if they hurt, do not continue. The important thing is not to worry, as stress is a major factor in pain intensity.
But in producing heat, you don’t necessarily have to buy ointments that stink, nor uncomfortable heat pads to put on your skin or clothing. You can use this very effective "heat hack" instead. Just use a hair dryer on the stiff neck or shoulder for a minute or two (not too close), then add a layer of clothing, and use the hairdryer again to warm up the fabric, then add another layer. Then use only your lower body to move around, to maintain this higher body temperature. Walking is the perfect exercise. Try not to move your neck or arm too much if possible. Once you increase your body temperature this way, it will take quite a while for the affected area to cool down, so your muscles will stay relaxed for longer. It is recommended to vary your activities so that you are not sedentary for too long.
If you have to spend the day sitting still and your body-temperature is likely to drop after so long (especially with air-conditioning), add more layers so that the neck or shoulder does not get cold. Don’t wait until after it is cold though, or you’ll wish you’d taken your hairdryer to work!
Whenever I have done this with neck or shoulder pain, I have noticed a difference within a few hours and was in a lot less pain the next day; less than half as much pain. And often less than half as much pain again, the following day. Personally, the pain has never lasted more than three days when applying heat and ibuprofen gel in this way.
Give it a go!
Paula Hughes is a writer, researcher and former sufferer of chronic pain since 1987. She is a huge follower of Dr John E Sarno MD's pioneering work with The Mindbody Connection and Tension Myoneural Syndrome (TMS). By using Mindbody techniques and further research and testing she has developed an effective pain management system for most types of chronic pain.
To learn more about Paula visit Chronic Back Pain Relief.