“You want me to do what?!” asked my patient Sharon 2 years ago? “Sharon” as we will call my patient for privacy purposes is a young 40-year-old. What I mean by young is she is extremely fit and eats a clean diet. For any age that is. The only issue is extreme neck pain and stiffness that seems to pop up out of nowhere. Or so she thinks.
Sharon is an old friend of my family. We know her and her husband from the beach and surfing. She loves surfing and yoga but also is a very high achiever in the work force. She has a high stress job and consistently wears her shoulders close to her ears. Which many of us can relate to. The stress and pressures associated with being a working mom can be overwhelming as I’m sure many people can attest to.
Following a thorough physical examination I was slightly perplexed. Sharon had full range of motion in the cervical spine(neck) and lumbar spine (low back). She had normal orthopedic and neurologic findings. She also had very little pain or tenderness in the muscles, joints, and vertebra of the neck. There was one very interesting finding. For a person with so much mobility and flexibility in the upper and lower regions of her spine, she had absolutely zero mobility in the thoracic spine (mid back). Why does this matter? Currently research in spinal mechanics indicates a need for more stability in the neck and low back but mobility in the mid back. However, for years many health care professionals have preached the opposite. Now let us take this with a grain of salt as research and commonly held beliefs are constantly changing and evolving when it comes to the human body.
Because of Sharon’s busy schedule we had to find a simple and relatively quick solution. That is when I told her my plan. Let us just say it was not what she expected. I told her to buy a foam roller and do this:
Following a simple manipulation of her mid back for mobility and some electrical stimulation to her upper back muscles for relaxation I gave her one simple instruction. Foam roll for 30 seconds every hour during the day and then call me next Monday. She was slightly annoyed and perplexed when I told her I was not going to do any manipulation to her neck. If I had not helped multiple mutual friends in the past she may have walked out and never came back. But luck would have it, I had seen this before. In fact, I had had this myself many times.
I was slightly surprised to receive a call from Sharon 2 days later since we had agreed to check back in a week. She was both shocked and relieved to find that she felt amazing!
Sometimes pain can cloud our judgement and expectations. There are no miracle cures. Sometimes cases can be complicated with long intricate treatment plans. But sometimes the solution is simple. Luckily, this was a simple one. After 2 years Sharon continues to foam roll and pay attention to her posture and has not had a flare up since!