On Tuesday morning, I opened up my trusty Timbuk2 bag and found this:
The day started just fine – KMN and I went out for a short run in the morning, and I sat down to work. But as the morning went on, my neck got tighter…and tighter…and tighter. By mid-afternoon, I was pretty much holding it at a very specific angle and was limited to just a few degrees of pain-free head motion. Any movement outside this range resulted in sharp, extremely painful stabs up and down my neck. Fabulous.
This is a quirky but painful pattern that repeats for me a few times a year. Without much warning, and seldom with an obvious trigger, a nerve somewhere gets pinched (I assume this is what happens), leaving me to hold my head in one very particular spot – this time, according to KMN, “…at a very regal angle.” So, I may have been in pain, but at least I was a princess (??).
I can remember the first time this happened: during a volleyball game in middle school, at which time the onset was acute, and I momentarily thought I was going to be paralyzed for the rest of my life. [Thankfully, the reality was substantially less dramatic.] At other times, this has been triggered by drying my hair, turning to look in the rear-view mirror, and – most commonly – sleeping.
I can assure you that holding your head in one very precise position gets old (and tiring) very fast, so I spent the rest of Tuesday here:
Fortunately, I do most of my work on a pretty petite laptop that could still be propped up on my knees. Unfortunately, this reclined position is very conducive to napping. If you were expecting some kind of business output from me on Tuesday, this is why it was delayed until Wednesday.
Thankfully, my husband is a rockstar, and knows how to treat a princess. ( 😉 ) He took care of dinner and didn’t laugh at me while I spilled rice all over my lap because I couldn’t look down to watch the spoon, or tip my chin down to get it in my mouth. He kept my water bottle full and with a straw, didn’t laugh when I got stuck in my shirt while trying to get into my PJs, and sympathetically asked, “But what can I do for you???” whenever I winced. Unfortunately, there really isn’t much to do, except wait it out, and please for the love of everything don’t jump on the bed. He didn’t. See? Rockstar!
Thankfully, in about 12-24 hours, the worst of this has usually passed – and that was certainly the case this time. By Wednesday afternoon I was feeling much better, and I was reminded once again that running rocks! Because, well, let’s think about what kind of workout my already-jonesing-for-exercise self could handle with a still-somewhat-limited range of neck motion:
Swim? Requires a LOT of head turning. At least, it does if I want to breathe. And I do like breathing.
Spin? The thought of leaning forward to the handlebars made me wince.
Yoga? BAHAHAHAHA. Only if we’re spending an hour in savasana (corpse pose, for you non yogis…yes, it’s pretty much exactly what you’re imagining), because I still wasn’t in backbending and spinal twisting shape yet.
But: Running! Running doesn’t require much head movement at all! And as long as I can hold my head up straight, I can pretty much run pain-free. So often, it seems that runners are sidelined with injuries or conditions and specifically ordered NOT TO RUN. But in stiff-neck-recovery-mode, it seems that all I can do is run! Score one for running. And? I love to run!! Super-mega-bonus!!
So, I’ve gone out for some short runs the last few days. I’ve been soooo thankful for each one. And by Thursday afternoon, I had enough comfortable neck rotation to even hit the pool for a bit. My fingers are crossed that I’ll shake the last of this stiffness tonight, and will be feeling fine and dandy for tomorrow’s 90 minute holiday spin class with one of my favorite instructors.
Anyone have an magical, nerve-unpinching advice for me, for the next time this happens?
[Neither heat nor ice help. Ibuprofen doesn’t make much of a dent when it’s really bad, but helps a bit once it’s on the mend. And no, I have never seen a doctor about it, because it usually resolves itself in a day or two.]
Let me live vicariously through you: What non-running workouts are you all doing today?