I had pain on the right side of my neck for most of my life. For most of those years I didn't
know the cause, but in my case it turned out to stem from a lower
shoulder / frozen shoulder that was pulling down on my neck. I also
had TMJ on my right side as well, with closed
ears and frequent sinus infections. (My left shoulder was higher
which caused thoracic outlet syndrome on the left
side of my body).
When I was in
my forties, after having two children, the pain in my neck became pretty
intense. It was hard to even turn my head to back my car out of our driveway.
I finally decided that I was going to just keep seeing different doctors
and other health care practitioners until I found some answers. I figured
that somebody, somewhere had to be able to help me.
So armed with
my health insurance card, I ended up seeing several chiropractors, several
physical therapists, two orthopedists, two general practitioners, an
acupuncturist, two massage therapists, two yoga instructors, a Feldenkrais
instructor, a biofeedback specialist, five TMJ dentists, a doctor who
was also a dentist and specialized in TMJ, a physiatrist, a rhuematologist
and probably some more people I can't even remember. I had made a list
in advance of at least 50 people to try, and each week I would make
some new appointments. Not getting any real help, I'd move on to
the next names down the list. I also bought hundreds of books and did
extensive Internet research to help round out my quest for answers.
One doctor I
saw suggested I go to a clinic to learn to deal with my pain. I declined.
I didn't want to learn to deal with the problem. I wanted to spend my
energy finding the cause of my pain and getting rid of it. My
root problem wasn't my pain; it was whatever was causing it. To me going
to a clinic was accepting defeat, and as long as there were still books
to read and people to see, I wasn't out of options.
In the end,
it worked. Most of the people I saw and most of the books didn't really
help all that much and some even made me worse. But in the end, the
rhuematologist, one of the physical therapists and a yoga teacher were
extremely knowledgeable and helpful. I also found a number of gems among
the books. So now I don't have any neck aches anymore at all, after
having had the problem for most of my life. It took a lot of time and
a lot of money to figure it all out, but in the end my problems were all
There were a
number of causes to my problems as listed below:
1. I had scoliosis
with a lower shoulder - The lower shoulder was pulling on my neck muscles
at the squiggly line point in the diagram below, making them tight.
In the front of my neck, the tendons on the right side of my neck were
all taut and distended. Odd as it may sound now, I asked a lot of doctors
about this and all but one said it shouldn't matter - that the lowered
shoulder was unrelated to my my problems. I had my doubts, but I just
wasn't sure what to do about it. It seemed logical to me that my health
issues were all interconnected, but initially I could not find any health
care practitioner who agreed with that premise.
Finally I found
a rhuematologist and physical therapist who worked together and specialized
in ergonomics and body alignment. They told me that my lowered shoulder
was almost assuredly the cause of my pain, confirming the suspicions
I'd had all along.
The cause of
my neck pain is illustrated below. My main issue was that my shoulder
muscles were out of balance. On one side the muscles were high, knotted
and way over developed, and on the other side my shoulder was lower
with weak, stretched out muscles. What I ended up doing to balance my
muscles was to do exercises and yoga postures to raise my lowered shoulder
and lower my raised shoulder. My lower shoulder ended up being lower
because of tight muscles in my right leg, which over time caused a downward
pull on the entire right side of my body.
of How a Lowered Shoulder Caused Headaches and Neck Pain
therapist I went to found about 50 things wrong with my body alignment
and posture. It was actually great, because then I had something I could
proactively work on to solve my health problems. In addition to sessions
with the PT, I bought all sorts of books on posture, trigger point therapy,
yoga and body alignment. Armed with the knowledge from those books and
my physical therapist's treatment ideas, I finally found a way to tackle
my pain problems.
2. I had nutritional
deficiencies - I believe I had nutritional deficiencies that were
causing my muscles to stay unusually tight. In addition to my neck problems,
for most of my life I'd had anxiety
problems, heart palpitations, muscle tics and
twitches, bouts with insomnia, mitral valve prolapse, a near SIDs
death as an infant, allergies and fibromyalgia. It turns out that these
problems have all been linked to my diet, and especially to magnesium
deficiencies. When I changed my diet, many of these problems started
to clear up in unison.
the mineral needed by the body to relax muscles after a contraction,
as well as hundreds of other functions. So if you are short on magnesium,
your muscles never get released and stay in a contracted state and you
can also have a wide variety of seemingly unrelated health problems.
(For more on this topic and the specific diet changes I made to get
my muscles more relaxed, see my sections on Fibromyalgia
Diet and Magnesium Deficiency.)
of us do not sit up straight when working on the computer.
3. I had poor
posture, I used to sit hunched over a computer all day long. One
thing I understand now is that whatever position your body stays in
for extended periods, your muscles tend to "freeze" in that
position, especially so if you are low on magnesium. So my neck would
be okay when I stayed hunched over and the muscles were shortened, but
as soon as I stood up, the shortened muscles would get pulled longer
and go into a spasm. Correcting
my posture was key in getting rid of my pain issues.
=> Part 2