Twist and Shout - What a Pain in the Neck
It had been several years since I had any significant degree of neck pain, other than the standard stiffness one might get from turning at an odd angle or sitting with a rigid neck posture for too long. I had forgotten just how miserable it makes my life. That is, until a few weeks ago when I woke up one morning to a neck so stiff, I could barely turn my head from side to side without intense pain. At first, I thought I had “slept on it funny”, as my mom used to say.
Is neck pain a new RA symptom?
I have no idea how or why this happened and that, in and of itself, annoys me. I tell myself all the time with RA symptoms: if I could just figure out why, I could then 1) figure how to treat it, and 2) prevent it in the future. Truthfully, I need to let go of this since RA is so random and unpredictable that clinging to this is not only futile but completely unproductive.
In need of quick relief from this neck pain
With that in mind, I told my rheumatologist and my physical therapist and they both offered some suggestions that have helped to a small extent, but not to the degree to which I wish they would. Oh, and I should mention, I HAVE NO PATIENCE. I somehow believe that I should come home, armed with these treatments and get relief in just a day or two. And I mean complete relief. Well, guess what? That is not going to happen. This is not like an ear infection that is relieved within 24 hours of going on an antibiotic.
I have learned that when you tweak your neck, it can take 4-6 weeks to get any measurable relief! What a nightmare. So, I am doing my exercises, and I have added a few tricks of my own.
Neck pain relief for rheumatoid arthritis
Direct heat for neck and shoulders
One thing that helps is to get one of those wonderful fleece, gel-filled or bead-filled wraps that sit over shoulders, up your neck, and down the top of your back. You heat them in the microwave before applying and it really does ease the pain and stiffness. A heating pad works too, but I really prefer something that fits to the area so perfectly.
Warm water for muscle relaxation
If you have access to a hot tub or jacuzzi, allowing those hot jets to hit those muscles is heaven. It really loosens up those tight tendons. That also applies to a nice shower where you can direct the stream to that part of your neck and should area.
Consider a simple neck brace
I have also found that wearing a simple neck brace gives me some benefit as well. When it is painful, I tend to tense up my whole neck and shoulder area, which just aggravates the issue. This is especially true when I am driving. The very nature of driving can be stressful and you turn your head a lot when you consider backing up, checking over your shoulder, etc. Having a neck brace on really has helped.
A hot stone massage
Finally, I get a hot stone massage. AHHH. I do make sure to carefully inform the therapist that this is a tender and troublesome area so that I do not get deep tissue massage but rather a hot stone gentle massage. It helps so much.
Despite my own impatience, I am seeing small improvements every day and I am certain that will continue if I use all of the tools at my disposal.
When was your last flare?