Thursday, April 05, 2007

COLUMN: Stiff Neck

My life has sadly turned into a routine: Work. Eat. Sleep. Repeat until dead.

Okay, maybe that's a bit harsh. Sometimes I squeeze "play with cats" or "defeat alien menace on PS3" in there. I'm becoming a tad over-complacent with reality lately. I need to spice things up a bit. Kick caution to the wind. Do the Dew.

I decided to start this little rebellious phase with an interesting proposition: What would happen if I were to accidentally fall asleep NOT on the bed (no, no -- beds are for boring, normal people), but instead accidentally fall asleep on my couch with my head tilted at approximately a 90 degree angle to the rest of my body?

Answer: Nothing good.

Yes, it's always a true joy when your first conscious thought of the day is "OW!" I'm pretty sure that while I was asleep, a team of highly skilled ninjas had broken into my apartment and tied every muscle in my neck into a Windsor knot.

You would think that a smart brain would have the sense to wake itself up in the middle of the night and go, "Umm, hey, just so you know, you're doing some serious damage to your neck laying like this." My brain? Zzzzzzzzzzzz. Until, that is, I woke up with the mobility of a statue.

Now, I've had stiff necks in the past, but this one was epic. I tried my usual Shane-tested method: pop a couple Advil and get under a hot shower. But an hour later, I was at work and still stiff as a board, and a painful board at that. I begged a massage out of one of my co-workers, but somehow that just made it worse. I had no choice but to shift into Phase 2 of my coping mechanism:

WHINE. Incessantly. All day long. "Wow, does my neck hurt!" "I'm not kidding, my neck sure does hurt!" "Necks are WEIRD, aren't they?" "Ow!"

By the end of the day, I could at least take comfort in knowing that I wasn't the only one who had to work all day with a pain in the neck. Yet as much as my co-workers wanted to kill me, they also offered a slew of advice. It went a little like this:

"Put ice on it!" "No, use heat!" "No, use ice!" "Heat!" "Ice!" "Less filling!" "Tastes great!"

I wanted an answer, so I called one of those nurse helplines to solve the heat/cold dilemma. "You could try either way and see what works best," the nurse said. Hrm, helpful. Of course, she DID add to the fun of the afternoon by reminding me that stiff necks are often an early sign of meningitis. Now THERE'S something to tell a neurotic like me. Within an hour, I was pretty sure I was developing both sensitivity to light and lockjaw. Were it not for the sanity of my co-workers, I would have talked my way into meningitis within an hour.

Instead, one of my co-workers said the words I knew were coming but dreaded to hear regardless:

"You should go see a chiro."

Gulp. I've gotta be honest on this one, folks: Chiropractors scare the bejeebies out of me.

And yes, I realize that them's fightin' words in the ol' QCA. Chiropractic medicine was INVENTED here, and if you don't believe me, you can drive to downtown Davenport and see the sign on the sidewalk commemorating the spot of the world's first chiropractic adjustment. I know what a fantastic legacy ol' Doc Palmer brought to Davenport, but whenever I see that sign, I can't help but envision a cloak-clad Doc Palmer sneaking up on some hapless pedestrian on that street corner, grabbing them from the back, and -- CRACK! -- science is born.

Thanks to Palmer College, every third person roaming the Quad City streets is a licensed chiropractor. And before each one of you writes in to chew me out, let me be clear: I believe in chiropractic medicine. I really do. I just also happen to believe that it's not for me.

There's just something a little barbaric about the whole process. I don't care if there are X-rays and textbooks and years of science to support it -- at the end of the day, it's still someone grabbing your spine and going CRACK. Well, no thanks. It's just a tad too violent for me. I get nauseous when I accidentally crack a knuckle; if my whole back got popped, it'd be last train to Pukesville for THIS wussyboy.

But the stiff neck I had last week made me finally walk through the doors of the chiro across the street from work. And he was nice, and he understood my terror. He told me what to do (ice, not heat.) He sold me a bottle of Biofreeze, which is basically menthol at a heavenly nuclear dosage. He showed me exercises to do. And he didn't try to sneak up behind me and crack my back, not even once.

Within a couple days, I could move my neck. Within a week, the pain was gone. Finally I could get back to what I do best: Work. Eat. Sleep. Repeat.


erin... said...

I hear that road trips to Brooklyn, New York with Mr. Jason reliably prevent future neck pain in 95% of patients tested who have experienced previous neck pain. Just a thought, Shane, just a thought...

kristie said...

Hiya Shane. Just so you know, Palmer is everywhere. Mobilization is still "hush-hush" and I think they are up to something sinister.

I, too, have thrown my neck out within the past year (and share your fear and suspicion of all things chiro). I found myself at a Boston area "Relax the Back" store for assist, and the manager was a Palmer grad. He loved Palmer, and since I went to Augie, he wanted me to say I loved it too. I declined.

Alejandra Goll said...

What a funny narration, Shane! Haha! I must agree with you that chiropractor is one of the alternatives that's invented today aside from acupuncture. Yet, there are some people that are not fit to take the medication, like the ones who have a weaker heart. Or the ones who are in younger age. However, it's still up to the patient if he/she wants to try or otherwise.