Garden variety neck pain, the kind where your neck is tight, stiff, sore, you hear a funky grinding noise or feel a crunching sound when you turn your head, and you're forever rubbing your neck is from something called Cervical Spondylosis.
Cervical refers to your neck, "spondyl" means your spine, and "osis" means trouble. So, the term Cervical Spondylosis actually means that the spine, in your neck, is in trouble.
Most people would like to know what to do about it; if there is some treatment, pill, or procedure to get rid of the pain, stiffness and most of all, the grinding sensation. Here is what the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons has to say about treatment for Cervical Spondylosis:
"If you have cervical spondylosis, symptoms may last for several months or become chronic. Most of the time if symptoms are mild, the doctor may recommend a variety of non-surgical treatments. Rest, medication and physical therapy may take away most of your symptoms, but do not treat the underlying cause. The doctor may want to see you again to check if symptoms have gotten better, worse or stayed the same."
Seems a bit gloomy to me especially the part about "Rest, medication and physical therapy may take away most of your symptoms, but do not treat the underlying cause." That sounds to me like I might feel better for a while only to have the symptoms come back again and again.
I agree with the AAOS' opinion - sort of. Medication and rest will help alleviate some of the symptoms. But why do you have the symptoms? In nearly all cases of musculoskeletal pain, symptoms appear when physical demand exceeds physical capacity. If the demand is just a little beyond your capacity, you may have very mild symptoms for a short time and discover that your body is able to adapt and become stronger. But, when the demand is too great, more severe symptoms follow and sometimes hang around for days or weeks or months. Your options then are to either reduce the demand (rest) or increase the physical capacity (exercise). For example, when your neck hurts, feels stiff and cranky after sitting at your computer for an hour, you can reasonably conclude that the force of sitting was greater than your body's ability to withstand it. You can quit sitting at your computer (reduce the physical demand) or you can increase the physical capacity of your neck by exercising.
As for physical therapy, if you insert the word "conventional" in front of physical therapy then I would agree with the AAOS.
Conventional physical therapy will involve things like heat packs or ice, ultrasound or electrical stimulation, cervical traction (a machine that stretches your neck like something out of the medieval times), massage, stretching the neck. Basically, doing a lot of stuff to your neck that bombards your brain with a whole slew of sensory inputs distracting it from feeling the pain signals coming from your neck. There is nothing inherently bad or wrong about any of these things and certainly nothing wrong with using techniques or methods to reduce symptoms. But, none of these procedures will change the fundamental health of your neck; increase the physical capacity. And changing the health of your neck is the key to reducing CS from a bowling ball chained to your leg that you drag around the rest of your life to maybe a Nerf ball.
I've been hinting around at the idea of using exercise to improve your physical capacity. Where do you start? Should you stretch your neck? Pop it? Do isometrics (see figure to the right)? To get started, we give our clients two very simple, easy to do drills that reduce their symptoms of CS and begin restoring the health of their spine; increasing their physical capacity. These drills feel really good and even better, are good for you. They take a few minutes per day but many people feel so good doing them that they'll spend 15 - 20 minutes a day on these drills.
Wonder what could feel so good to your neck that you would want to spend 20 minutes doing it?
I'll share them next week......