- I am not a doctor - I have no medical training at all
- Seek a doctor - before attempting any of these exercises
There are few things more debilitating than neck and back problems. Sometime in my late thirties, I developed a kink in my neck, that wouldn't go away. It would radiate pain across my back shoulder muscles, and down my right arm. It was painful and irritating, but I could function. I traveled a lot back then, logging tens of thousands of air miles every year and I attributed my problems up to sleeping awkwardly in an airplane. This irritation progressed over the years, and long after I stopped traveling the pain persisted. My right arm and fingers would go numb several times a day, but I still didn't go to a doctor, and decided to just man-up. Ten years after the problem started, I pulled a muscle in my lower back, and the pain associated with that pulled muscle, and my now crooked neck/head forced me to see a doctor. The doctor dismissed the back pain as a chronic symptom that millions of Americans suffer, but wanted me to see a specialist about the loss of strength in my right arm and chronic neck and shoulder pain. I did an MRI and some other tests and met with the specialist who said he had a very simple fix. He would cut a hole in the back of my neck, insert a tube about the size of a pen, and operate on the vertebrate at the base of my neck. It's been a while and I don't recall all of the diagnosis, but the one thing I did decide was that no one was going to operate on my neck bones. So I went to chiropractors (3 of them) and got three different diagnosis', and to a massage therapist (that was like heaven). I did get some temporary relief but nothing permanent. So I started eating ibuprofen and acetaminophen like candy, and I learned how to live with the discomfort.
This all started in my late 30's or early 40's. By the time I was 50, I had quit smoking and put on an unnecessary 30lb's, and seldom had more good days than bad. My son talked me into taking a cross fit class with him, to shape up and hopefully lose some weight. The problem was that my back hurt so bad I had a difficult time doing the pre-workout stretches. Ultimately I did the 4 introductory classes and quit. I did develop an appreciation for stretching though, and started looking for books that explained different stretches and which muscle groups they targeted.
This is where things get interesting, and where I'm going to introduce to you something that absolutely changed my life.
Being an avid researcher I spent a few hours reading reviews on Amazon when I stumbled upon a comment that got me pointed to a book that eliminated my back and neck pain for good. The book I was researching was full of stretches for athletes. One of the reviewers stated that if you were older, and stiff you might not be able to do the stretches and recommend a book titled "Somatics: Reawakening The Mind's Control Of Movement, Flexibility, And Health". I paged around that book and my interest was piqued. I then Googled Somatics' and found some Youtube videos showing show of the exercises. I found a few videos' and that night, about midnight, I tried a couple, then went to bed. The next morning I was amazed to wake up feeling looser, with less pain. After breakfast, I revisited the videos and repeated the exercise. I immediately felt better and immediately bought a Kindle version of the book.
The book is divided roughly into three parts. Part one, is dedicated to several case studies where the book's author took on clients that had debilitating muscular problems. Each case study included the patient's medical case history, medical diagnosis' and how the author literally cured the patient by teaching them simple, easy to do movements. Part two explains how "Sensory-Motor Amnesia" occurs. Sensory Motor Amnesia is the authors opinion on how our bodies get so out of whack. Part three is dedicated to easy to do movements that address this motor amnesia. I found the book to be believable, easy to read and convincing. What caught my attention the most, was the fact, that Mr. Hanna doesn't see patients for months or years on end with constant tweaks. Once the clients can successfully master the movements (not a hard thing to do), they were done with him. This is in stark contrast to most chiropractors I've seen (no dig here, honest). What I didn't like about the book was that it was difficult to understand exactly how to do the movements with the mannequin drawings that were intended to illustrate. So I went back to YouTube and a couple hours of searching landed me on Dr. Knights videos that contain "all" of the somatic movements and more. I immediately bought the DVD's.
I am now 57, almost 58 and with just a few exceptions that I'll elaborate on later I am pain free. No neck pain, no back pain, full range of motion restored, no numb arms and fingers, no achy shoulder muscles. I am a new man, feeling better than I did when I was in my thirties. And along the way I dropped 25 pounds, run some, hunt a lot, climb trees . . . Can you tell I'm excited about this? I have no idea if this is quackery or not, but I do know that my body has been restored. I'm going to share links to the books and videos below. Please understand that I receive "NO COMPENSATION" for this. I don't earn referral fees . . . I just want to pass along the good news. Your mileage may vary. Write back and tell me if this works for you.
Book: Somatics: Reawakening The Mind's Control Of Movement, Flexibility, And Health
Videos: YouTube intro to somatic expressions
DVD's: Gentle Somatic Yoga 2 DVD set with James Knight, E-RYT
When I still have pain
I mentioned that I'm "almost" pain free. From time to time, I would find that I would do something that really pulls a muscle, and when I do, I can be in pain for several days. Enough pain, that I couldn't even tolerate the exercises. Once while building my grandkids play set, my back froze up, and I almost had to crawl out of the yard. Later that day I had an appointment, and as I was driving, my back kept cramping, painfully cramping. I called my wife and begged her to jump on Google and find out what might be causing the behavior. Fifteen minutes later she called back. The answer? Water and potassium. I was dehydrated. I didn't drink water. Not just that day, I didn't drink water period. I didn't like water. I drank a couple pots of coffee throughout the day, and a beer or two in the evening and that was my fluid intake. I have since learned that our muscles require water to function, and I was starving mine. I now drink 80+ ounces of water every day, more on hot days or if I am working hard. The rule of thumb I was given was to divide my weight by 2 and that is how many ounces to drink. My weight varies between low 150's and 160, so 80+ ounces is my number. What's yours!