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Managing an acute flare up of musculo-skeletal pain in the neck and back

The essence of the approach to be taken is gentleness.

Sometimes as pain and stiffness build up, there may be the temptation to work harder to ward off a stiffening up of muscles and joints. This appears to be counter-productive, increasing irritants in the system and so aggravating pain, leading on to increased spasm.

Movement is indeed essential but at a very low intensity and little repetition. The number of sessions may increase but less is done, limiting movements to as little as three to five times a session. The attitude should be relaxed and positive. There is a very expressive word 'fret' and is so easily indulged in when things go awry or out of control. It induces tension and in my imagination produces a 'bitterness' in the blood which can heap up unrelieved.

It is the drainage of irritants which is essential and this includes the lymph as well as blood circulation. It may be worthwhile gaining some knowledge of gentle massage techniques from a qualified masseur. The direction of the technique is as important as the actual pressure applied. The parts of the limbs nearest the heart should be cleared first, always working towards the heart. Drinking plenty obviously aids this drainage.

Relief of Neck pain and stiffness.

Movements can obviously be done in an upright position but it is advisable to lie down as well to take the weight off the joints and allow the weight of the head ( not inconsiderable!) to rest on a pillow. In this position flatten the back into the resting surface, particularly the upper thoracic area, pulling the shoulders back as well. Holding this down, gently lift the head up and forwards as far as is comfortable and then lower back down again. It can then be slighly arched before repeating the movement. You will find this will release the spasm of the extensor muscles and enable the neck to be raised higher with time.

The deep flexor muscles are often underused and weak and this will strengthen them considerably as well as pumping the discs in the cervical spine so as to regain their height. This in turn takes the pressure off the delicate facet joints at the side of the vertebra

At times it could be advisable to wear a suitably fitted cervical collar for short periods to take the weight of the head but it must be removed regularly to move the neck freely. Pulling a soft pillow in around the neck in lying has a very comforting effect.

If the pain is burning, a cold compress works wonders.

The same gentle approach can be used for the lower spine using a slow, gentle bridging patten, pressing the back well into the surface as the buttocks are lifted,