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Sunday, September 2, 2012

Emergency Neck Pain Blog Post!!!

I am declaring a cervical state of emergency!

All those who have suffered... are suffering... or will be suffering (hence, everyone) from neck pain of any kind must read this post!!!

Lately there has been an astonishing onslaught of neck problems amongst my family and friends.  Trust me, I know first-hand – thanks to my 2011 Neck Incident – just how heinous serious neck pain can be.
In response, I’ve been sending all my cervical sufferers a link to an old blog post in which I demonstrate the best neck stretch in the world, but I now see the need to update that demo and add a few more therapeutic techniques that have rocked my world.  It’s been over a year and I have yet to have another neck attack of such severity… and I credit these 3 exercises/stretches with keeping it that way.

Beach ball boon*.  And you thought taking a beach ball to a high school graduation was being creative! This is a great one for when the pain is so intense you can hardly move it in any direction.  The barely inflated beach ball positions and supports the head in a way to allow for movement not otherwise possible with severe neck impairment.
Start by barely inflating a beach ball with just enough air to keep your head from
touching the ground when you lay back on it.
Slowly turn your head to one side just until you reach the point of increased pain/tingling.
Then the other side, of course.  You might not be able to get much movement at first, but
you will improve over time.
Then tilt one ear toward your shoulder...
And to the other side.

Occipital release*.  It surprised me how effective the occipital release technique was in improving my neck pain.  Position two tennis balls at the base of your skull where it meets the top of your neck and try to relax.  Usually in the first moments, this KILLS me, but a few minutes into it, I start to relax and the tension in my neck decreases considerably.  Maintain position for about 10 minutes or so.
Start with a rolled-up towel and a couple of tennis balls in a sock...
Lay back so the tennis balls are on the sweet spot.  You may need to adjust the towel height accordingly.
Try to relax for a good ten minutes or so. Let the tension just slip away...

Smelly armpit stretch.  And, finally, the best neck stretch in the entire history of neck stretching.  I do this almost daily and it has been a life-saver for me.  I do not over-exaggerate when I say this stretch could likely bring about world peace if everyone would just spend, like, 2 minutes doing this every day.
Start by angling your nose toward your armpit as though trying to take a big whiff.
This is how my physical therapist described it. He said it would be memorable this way.
Slowly start to look away and forward while keeping your ear close to your shoulder.
Finally, end up looking completely forward in a side bend with ear as close to
shoulder as flexibility allows.
Neck pain to any extent is nothing to take lightly!  I discovered the hard way that a person can pay dearly for participating in neck neglect.  I haven’t found it necessary to do the beach ball exercise since the incident but the other two, along with a doorway chest stretch, I do regularly and it’s always the best 5 minutes of my day.

*I have to thank my wonderful friend who, while possessing political views that are completely upside-down and backwards (sorry, P - I couldn't resist... it's that time of year!), has magic hands and acquainted me with the first two techniques... along with many other helpful treatments over the years!  Everyone needs to have a physical therapist as a friend!  Now if I could just buddy up with a plastic surgeon...

Oh, and read the disclaimer at the very bottom of this blog page, would ya.


  1. Great post. Great explanation and demonstration of these stretches and techniques. I want to give a shout-out to the doorway chest stretch. That stretch, combined with strengthening of the muscles between the shoulder blades is effective at reducing the forward head and rounded shoulder posture that often contributes to neck pain.

    Congratulations to you, Sharon, for keeping the neck pain away. Keep up the good work.

    Love, your upside-down and backwards PT friend.

  2. Thanks for your input, Paulette. You literally saved my neck a year ago. And thanks for pointing out the importance of good posture in preventing neck strain and pain. I agree that the chest stretch is the unsung hero of good neck health.

  3. These are great home exercises to alleviate neck pain. I should try this when I get home. Thanks for this; you really explained it well with pictures too.

  4. Larry,they have been so effective for me - I hope they help you out too. I find it well worth the time to do them - especially the seated neck stretch. It can be done anywhere, any time and really helps reduce my neck tension.

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