By Sigourney Cantelo
I’ve had issues with my neck and shoulders for over ten years. Every now and then, one side locks up and I can’t turn my head, or even get out of bed!
Over the years I’ve seen numerous chiropractors, osteopaths, acupuncturists and physios (who referred to my condition as an “acute wry neck”). It wasn’t until recently that I managed to find some relief.
After trying everything out of sheer desperation, I stumbled across a combination of coping mechanisms which I want to share. I know how many people suffer from back and neck distress, and I hope some of these tips will help you, too.
Dry needling is similar to acupuncture, in that the practitioner inserts super fine needles into the knots in your muscles (known as trigger points) to help break them up. It works faster than massage and is less painful than having a super firm bed-gripping back pummel (trust me; the needles are so tiny you barely feel them).
Dry Needling works every time for me – often a single session will relieve the tightness and it never progresses to an all-out lock down or decrease in motion.
“Massage is good for lighter stiffness and pain, but dry needling is deeper and more therapeutic. It’s good for chronic problems and acute pain”, explains Sohal Shah, Crown Spa’s visiting wellness consultant, who is currently offering dry needling and pain management sessions at Crown Spa Melbourne.
During his sessions, Sohal also integrates relaxation and reiki techniques, and he also manipulates the needle gently, a unique technique I hadn’t experienced but one I felt was really effective. “This slow vibration of the needle helps you relax further”, he notes.
Foam rolling is a form of self-massage and a great way to manage the tension build-up that can cause back and neck pain. Whenever I watch TV, I get on my yoga mat and use a variety of different shaped balls and rollers (my favourite are by Blackroll). Foam rolling helps me target the tense parts of my back – there are different moves to reach different areas of tension.
Blackroll have an amazing app where you can input your pain areas and it gives you a range of exercises to try. To get the full impact, you should roll each area for 1-2 minutes, which is quite painful, but stick with it - you’ll get so much relief!
We all know how connected the mind and the body are. When we’re stressed we often hold tension in the body – particularly if we have an area of weakness. So managing the source of the stress is a great place to start – whether that’s through yoga, meditation or deep breathing.
I practice Vedic Meditation (I did an amazing course with The Broad Place recently) and I find when I meditate my incidences of back and neck pain decrease significantly. I also sleep better.
In his dry needling sessions, Sohal combines breathing and relaxation exercises as well. “This is so that you get involved in the treatment too. Self-relaxation and breathing help a lot with pain”, he explains.
POSTURE AND PAIN PRODUCTS
There are copious numbers of consumer goods targeting those who suffer with neck and back pain, and I’ve probably tried most of them with varying success (ordering every back related product ever launched through the home shopping network is not always the answer).
There are a few that I like though: Upright Go is a little gadget that you stick between your shoulder blades. It talks to an app on your phone which coaches you slowly to better posture. A more old-school way to do it is with the Blackroll Posture – it’s a brace you wear under your clothes that helps correct slumpy shoulders. Finally, the Neck Hammock is a clever concept – it creates traction (stretching out the vertebrae) for your neck at home – you just hook it over a door handle and lie back letting your head relax into the hammock. If you can find five or ten minutes a day to lie back in it, I found it really does help alleviate the tension and strain in your neck.
I’m also super keen of get my hands on the Theragun G3PRO - a ‘”percussive therapy” device that has the whole fitness industry talking. It provides deep vibrational massage to reduce pain and improve mobility.
I think most things in life can be sorted out with a massage. In fact nothing makes me happier. If you suffer from neck and back pain, my tip is to always make sure you find a therapist that is trained in remedial massage rather than relaxation – the two are markedly different.
Book a Deep Tissue or Therapeutic massage at Crown Spa Melbourne and you can be sure your massage therapist will be able to deliver the goods. It’s always my first port of call when I’m traveling to either city.