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Pain, as most of us know by our own life experience, comes in a variety of forms, at any age and at any time of the day or night, often when we least expect it or when it is most inconvenient. Accordingly we would do well to consider devising an accessible approach to self care for that time when, by accident, over-use or chronic condition, our pain level rises to the point at which we become dysfunctional or distracted or both.
If the idea of taking positive charge of your own well being in this way leaves you anxious or confused or weak in the knees, seek out the help of a knowledgeable friend or health professional. Often a coach or personal trainer or massage therapist can offer insights and pointers that will lead you in the right direction.
Since most garden variety pain has more to do with soft tissue or muscles, here is where you will likely find the best answers to your most basic questions. One approach to the matter of pain is to think of the three ways of dealing with most of it that you will encounter in your everyday life. These are: Prevention, First Aid and Long Term Management.
There is no way to guarantee that you will be able to live pain free, no matter how protective or cautious you are. However, a regular program of moderate, well balanced exercise with generous amounts of aerobic, cardio vascular activity, some strength training and stretching with some variation in routine will go a long way to keeping your body tuned up, strong and limber enough to do all of the things you have always enjoyed and which give color, texture and energy to your life without your having to be concerned about hurting yourself.
Of course if your interests turn toward mountain climbing, sky diving, or skiing steep and deep powder, and the like, you will certainly want to step up your conditioning to levels appropriate for your sensible and realistic aspirations.
Pain is often the signal that something is amiss when injury strikes. Listen to it even as all of your best plans are falling apart. Assess the damage. Is it a broken bone, a joint sprain, a muscle strain, a traumatic injury or an over-use syndrome on the rise? Your answers may or may not point you in the right direction, but they will add to your store of experience that should help protect you in the future. For most athletes and sport oriented therapists and trainers, icing, rest, compression and elevation are the traditional first treatments for soft tissue injury. Broken bones and more severe muscle and joint damage take longer and more complicated repair and recuperative protocols.
Long Term Pain Management:
Eventually prevention and first aid lead to and then blend in with long term management of symptoms. All of these care phases then become a seamless whole. In the quest for pain free and optimally functional long term fitness, serious seekers of effective self care will search for knowledgeable, pain management clinicians, but, as David Simons, M.D. has said,* "…finding a truly skilled practitioner can be frustratingly difficult." But, he adds, "There is no substitute for learning how to control your own musculoskeletal pain. Treating myofascial trigger points yourself addresses the source of that kind of common pain and is not just a way or temporarily relieving it."
This self care principle is a direct outgrowth of the trigger point identification and treatment protocol that was developed both before and after World War II by Hans Kraus, M.D. and Janet Travell, M.D., among others including aerospace researcher and physician David G. Simons, M.D. By the late 1970s, nationally popular exercise therapist and promoter, Bonnie Prudden and friend and associate of Drs. Kraus and Travell, had developed her own, non invasive trigger point protocol that was a direct extension of the early work of Kraus and Travell.
Prudden called her technique Myotherapy, wrote a book on it and founded her own Academy for Physical Fitness and Myotherapy in a former elementary school in Lenox Masachusetts to train professional myotherapists. The elements of the Prudden Myotherapy treatment include the following key elements:
The success of this therapeutic protocol is measured by the subjective reduction in pain, increased flexibility and range of motion as well as in increased strength, endurance and over all physical function. Success is also measured by the degree to which patients become active participants in their ongoing self care.
Over the past thirty years the myotherapeutic model has been widely practiced by physicians and therapists representing the span of professional disciplines that define mainstream, physical medicine. And it is now well accepted as an effective and conservative treatment option.
Precipitating factors. By thorough patient intake interviews, the myotherapist seeks to discover the conditions and circumstances that contribute to the patient's symptoms
Deep, manual, soft tissue ischemic compression and myofascial release of trigger points.
Individualized active and passive stretching exercises often facilitated with topical application of coolant spray.
Detailed patient instruction in home self care including deep muscle compression, stretching and strengthening exercises and the management and avoidance of precipitating factors.
If you have ever suffered from the debilitating effects of headaches accompanied by neck and shoulder pain you know firsthand just how important it is to identify the cause of the problem and do everything you can to prevent future incidents.
There are a multitude of causes contributing to headaches and neck pain ranging from overuse or injury of the delicate soft tissue of the neck region to more generalized factors such as occupation, physical, or emotional stress. A long list of other causes can lead to this widespread condition, as well. Recent research suggests that frequently, the causative factors are multilayered and not simply the result of one specific reason.
Pain is often a warning sign from your body and serves the purpose of getting your brain’s attention. For this reason, acute and chronic pain resulting from headaches and neck pain should be taken seriously. It is always a good idea to consult your primary health care provider and make a concentrated effort to determine the cause of your specific condition. It is often necessary to seek help from a specialist who deals specifically with the type of headache that you are experiencing.
Millions of people find relief from pain and discomfort by utilizing the services of Alternative and Holistic health care providers who treat the body as a whole. These natural practitioners may often recommend lifestyle changes or nutritional therapies as well.
Health care providers such as Doctors of Chiropractic and licensed Massage Therapists specialize in treating headaches and neck pain that are due to musculoskeletal imbalance and dysfunction.
Fortunately, there are some things that you can do on your own, naturally, to help ease the pain and discomfort due to a specific type of headache known as a tension headache. Tension headaches are characterized by a band of tightness, pressure or pain around the forehead, temples, and back of the head. Frequently, the pain or pressure in the head is accompanied by stiffness, pain or discomfort in the neck and upper back region.
Often, the pain begins as tightness in the neck and shoulder region and gradually progresses to a full blown headache that can be severe and disrupt every aspect of your busy day. These headaches can last anywhere from 30 minutes to several days and can dramatically decrease the quality of your life and your energy level.
If the above scenario sounds familiar to you, the following information could help you take charge of your health and possibly prevent the frustration and challenges related to tension headaches and neck pain in the future.
Perhaps the most important thing that you can do to end the vicious cycle of muscle related pain is to simply listen to the constant feedback that your amazing body is constantly providing you. If you find yourself in a stressful situation, make an effort to stop, take a few deep diaphragmatic breaths and tune into your physical body.
Most of us have “trigger points” or localized areas of tenderness and tightness in our neck, shoulders, and upper back that serve as red flags or reminders that we are entering into a cycle of muscle tension due to stress. Almost everyone has specific, localized areas that seem to flare up in these areas when they are tired, overworked, or experiencing negative emotions.
If we simply try to ignore these trigger points, they usually increase in strength and become more knotted, tight, and painful, significantly decreasing blood flow and the flow of oxygen and energy to all parts of your body. Often, if we are thinking negative and unproductive thoughts, we are attracting even more stress and tension to ourselves simply by repeating old neural patterns and mental scripts.
When your body perceives a situation as being stressful, it reacts the same as it would to an imminent physical threat. At these times, you may experience some of the same symptoms that are a specific response to the “fight or flight” instinct that helps protect us in times of danger.
These instincts (such as rapid breathing and tightening of your muscles to prepare for flight) come in handy if you are being chased by a bear in the woods, but only make matters worse when you are stuck in a traffic jam or dealing with high stress deadlines and events.
We have all noticed people in stressful situations grab and squeeze the muscles of the upper shoulder near the neck when they are feeling tense and frustrated. Perhaps this is something that you do on a regular basis while sitting at your desk or computer or talking on the phone. You may even stretch your neck from side to side or sigh deeply.
Using your hands and fingers to apply pressure to tight, knotted muscles is a natural response from your innately intelligent body that can help instantly relieve pain and pressure and begin the process of relaxation. Your body gets your attention by sending signals of pain and you recognize and respond to this warning sign by applying acupressure (localized sustained pressure) to specific areas, often without even being aware that you are doing it.
This pressure helps relax and flatten the muscle and keeps the kinks and spasms from knotting up even more. There are many other ways to keep the cycle of muscle spasm and pain from accelerating rapidly. Taking the time to practice meditation or deep breathing, getting a good spinal adjustment or massage, or engaging in cardiovascular exercise can all make a profound difference.
Luckily, there are several safe and effective self care tools that you can use in the privacy of your own home to immediately relieve trigger point pain and prevent tension headaches originating from muscle spasm.
My favorite self care tool designed specifically for this purpose is the Original Backnobber II, manufactured by The Pressure Positive Company.
I like the fact that anyone can use this device at any time in the privacy of their own home or office without having to wait for an appointment. By taking just a few minutes to relax, listen to your body and do something about the cause of muscle related pain, you can prevent a stressful situation from taking a major toll of your body.
When an individual combines the use of the Backnobber with the stretches recommended in the accompanying User Guide, they are also helping to elongate and lengthen tight muscles, decompress joints, and increase range of motion and flexibility throughout the body. Stretching the muscles of the neck and shoulder region naturally decreases painful spasms and increases blood flow to affected areas.
Utilizing self care tools such as the Backnobber can also help the headache and neck pain sufferer gain a measure of control over their symptoms and lead to an increased awareness of other related factors that may be causing their pain and dysfunction.
As a retired Chiropractor and active health and fitness educator, I have treated thousands of individuals and researched numerous products that help relieve pain and discomfort. Over the years, I have heard and seen more positive testimonials related to this product than any other health and fitness tool on the market. I have also used it personally with excellent results.
I like the fact that hundreds of thousands of users have benefited from this simple yet effective product since 1979 and that the company that manufactures this product is passionate about myofascial therapy education and research.
Anyone who has experienced the frustration, challenges, and obstacles that accompany neck pain and headaches can attest to the fact that they can literally control your life and take the fun out of living. Although the causes of headaches and neck pain are numerous, sometimes the sufferer gets lucky by finding one solution to their problem. Hopefully, the information above may just the weapon you need to help yourself or someone you love change their life for the better by permanently eliminating tension headaches and neck pain.
About the Author:
Since 1986, Dr. Suzanne Osborne, aka Dr. Suzy, has earned a reputation as one of the nation’s leading holistic health and fitness experts. Her sincere and passionate “Back to Basics” philosophy has helped countless individuals across the world create healthier, stronger, and more energetic lifestyles.
Dr. Osborne is a cum laude graduate of Life Chiropractic College, a diplomat of the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners, and an active member of the Florida Chiropractic Association.
After treating thousands of patients while in private practice (including World Class and professional athletes) she retired from active chiropractic practice in 2002. Since that time, her primary focus has been on education and helping individuals make positive permanent changes in their daily lifestyles via her website www.pure-life.com .
Dr. Suzy is the author of the book “Pure Life, The Pura Vida Journey" a powerful, groundbreaking guidebook to optimal health. Her articles in magazines and publications such as Chiropractic Wellness and Natural Awakenings have been enjoyed by millions of readers across the world.
Dr. Osborne has appeared frequently on national and international television as a health and fitness expert and is regarded by many to be an early leader in the natural health movement. For reprints of Dr. Suzy’s articles, click on Publications link above.