Thursday, January 10, 2013


It's like looking in the mirror..
I haven't blogged in a while because I've been busy trying to literally put my head back where it belongs. I've always had a freakishly large head, but over the past few years I've developed something called "forward head posture", a common condition also known by the more colorful and totally unflattering term "Neanderthal head".

In my case, my melon sits about 2 inches forward of upright, most likely due to spending half my life hunched over a desk. Keep in mind, the average human head weighs 12 pounds (not including big hair) and is balanced on our spines like a bowling ball on a stick. If you keep tilting that stick forward the ball will eventually fall off. Thanks to my sloppy posture and the business world's general disregard for office ergonomics, this was starting to happen to me. I've had chronic pain in my neck and shoulder blade for several years, but ibuprofen and Senior's awesome back rubs have helped me cope. More recently I noticed that either gravity was pulling my clothes off my left shoulder, or it was now lower than my right one and eventually I'd be swinging from the bell tower of Notre Dame cathedral. I still didn't take any action until I went to the doctor to treat what I thought was tendonitis in my left arm. It turns out that the misaligned vertebrae in my neck were squeezing nerves that run down that side. It was time to do something about my affliction. I despise chiropractors, so I asked my doctor for a script and headed to physical therapy.

Physical therapy isn't a new thing for me. I was a patient four years ago when I blew out a disc in my lower back, and I loved it (the therapy, not the blown disc). It's like having a spa treatment without having to tip anyone. Now, don't confuse this with occupational therapy, which I've also endured after smashing my wrist and having it screwed back together. (I told you I was clumsy.) OT is like putting your hand in a blender. But PT... now that's good stuff. If you have any chronic pain and you have decent insurance, get yourself some PT.

Each visit starts by lying in a darkened room for about 20 minutes while being swathed with warm, moist, cushiony gel packs. I can feel all my knots unraveling and usually want to drift off to sleep. Next a tech wheels in a cart and performs a short painless ultrasound right on the trouble spot. They warm the gel first, which always makes me think back to my pregnancies and go into curmudgeon mode: "We didn't have any pre-warmed ultrasound gel in my day! These women today have it so easy!" When that is done it's time for the best part - the massage! {{sigh}} I hear angels sing during the massage. The therapist knows exactly what muscles to knead to give you total relief. He usually chit-chats during the massage, and I try to answer him without drooling. All too soon that ends and it's time to be super stretched. In my case, I lay face up on a padded table while the therapist stands behind me and cradles my head in his hands. He gently pulls backwards like he is trying to make me taller, pausing every once in a while to push down on my shoulders. If I had enough visits I would finally have that swan-like neck that I always wanted. Finally, after you are totally relaxed and in a puddle, they expect you to exercise. That part kind of sucks. But the exercises are simple and the goal is to gently stretch and strengthen, not to feel the burn. The easiest and most effective one is a chin tuck, which is basically me pulling my chin into my neck wattle. Not my best look, I might add. But I find myself doing this one a lot, especially when I'm in the car. If you are ever at a red light and notice the woman in the car next to you appears to be doing turtle impressions, that's probably me.

The treatments seem to be working. My neck is aching as my atrophied muscles are built back up, but the constant burning pain in my shoulder blade is gone and the nerve pain in my arm is getting better. It even looks like my shoulders are back at the same parallel. I have a couple more visits left before my script expires, and during the last one they will take measurements to see how far I've evolved back from caveman status. Hopefully I'm developing some good habits to continue to gain and hold ground. Otherwise I'll just start wearing a bone in my hair.


  1. I have chronic pain for many days and I am finding a good treatment to get relief. I think physical therapy can help me. I am going to contact a therapist.

    1. I hope you find relief from your pain. It seemed to work for me, I feel a lot better. I have to keep doing the exercises at home to remain strong.