If you have never had back/neck issues, you probably don't realize how destructive it affects your life. I didn't. In fact, it makes you completely dysfunctional. The nasty bit is that the problem creeps up unnoticed. It can take years to build up, and then one day you’re knocked out without an idea of how to recover.
Three years ago, when someone commented on my posture, I was like, "Nah, my back was always perfectly fine. It won’t affect me.". The first part was genuine. Until 37, my back was OK. No issues whatsoever. I ignored everything and kept doing wrong things. Eventually, it hit hard.
After the first month of parenting, my lower back was destroyed. I couldn’t bend. I couldn’t sit. In peaks, I couldn’t get up without help. Visits to a physiotherapist helped for a while, but the pain returned.
The neck issue is a different animal. If lower back pain disables you physically, neck pain disables you mentally.
Story time. My relationship with neck pain is even older. It was our last year in Bali, when we decided to take a trip to Java to the most scenic place in Indonesia—Mount Bromo. We arrived on location long before sunrise to secure the spot and spent the whole night there. It was a hella freezing night, but I took one of my favorite photos there, so it was worth it. On the way back to the hotel, I fell asleep in an odd position in the car. Even though it wasn’t the root cause, it triggered the destruction. The next morning, I woke up with a permanent headache. We got back to Bali. I got back to my work routines. Week. Two. All this time, I was in a permanent headache. One day, I couldn’t proceed with the work and took a week off. I visited local doctors, but all I got were medications against vertigo or shrugs.
At some point, I started reacting to sound and light. I got hypertension. I remember lying in a dark room and thinking that if I don’t figure out what is wrong with me ASAP, it might not end well. I started googling, youtubing, and while going through the results, I remembered that in recent months, my left shoulder and left half of my neck became stiff when I surfed for only 20 minutes. So stiff, I couldn’t paddle. Also, earlier this year, when I was doing a checkup in my home country, an ultrasound guy asked me if I had headaches and suggested doing some massages. I didn’t have any mentioned issues, so I filtered it out.
All pieces fell into place. The following day, I found a manual therapist and booked an appointment. After one hour of treatment, the blood rushed to my head, giving me euphoria. For the first time in many weeks, I felt normal. It didn’t last long, though. A couple of hours after the treatment, the stiffness and headache started to build up again. It took about six months of treatments to get back to a somewhat stable condition.
The core of the issue is that neck muscles, while being mistreated, become stiff over time. At some point, stiffness turns into a spasm. The muscles lose flexibility and, while being rock-hard, prevent enough amount of blood from reaching the brain. It results in dizziness, headaches, and inability to focus on anything. Trying to work in such a condition is like trying to turn on a broken engine: the car is shaking and coughing but produces no result. In peaks, when I tried to type on a keyboard, I had a tremor in my arms, and while focusing on the tremor, I forgot what I wanted to type.
Although I visited different therapists a zillion times, and they helped me relieve spasms and even suggested exercises, I was never able to help myself when the muscles became too stiff. The moment I realized my neck was locked, I needed to go to the doctor.
The man I owe the recovery to is Robin McKenzie.
First, he helped me with my lower-back problem. Special thanks to Justin Gordon, who introduced me to his book "Treat your own back".
The recovery went exactly how it was described in the book. It was mind-blowing.
The value of this book is not only in exercises but also in that it explains how your body works, what you should and should not do to stay healthy, and why. After reading this chapter, I immediately identified what caused the issue.
It’s been more than one year since I recovered. The only time when the pain returns is when I stop doing exercises.
My second self-recovery happened just now. In recent months, my neck started giving me hard times again. In the new country, I found a great therapist who helped me to recover more than once. But when it hit me again about a week ago, I realized I just can’t run to the doctor each time my neck disables me. I have to learn why it happens, how to help myself, and prevent such issues in the future.
Luckily, it crossed my mind to check if Robin McKenzie has something regarding the neck. It turns out he has: "Treat tour own neck".
The story is repeated almost identically. Short, straightforward book. Three simple exercises. All three take 2-3 minutes to complete. 8-10 times per day in the first few days. Then, depending on the condition, frequency can be reduced.
It took two days to relieve a spasm and headache. One more day to get flexibility back. One week after, I am pain-free. The biggest win is that for the first time, I managed to beat spasm and get myself back to normal without anyone else's help. This is huge.
Robin McKenzie also has books regarding hips and knees. I will read them as soon as possible to prevent possible issues.
Also, some time ago, I saw good feedback on another book regarding back issues “Healing Back Pain: The Mind-Body Connection” by John E. Sarno. I will read it, too, out of curiosity.
P.S. It's a great pleasure to write with a clear mind.