My husband's best friend is a dentist. On Friday we all went out for Sushi and he was sitting across from us and looking very strained. " I have a pinched nerve in my neck" he said with pain in his face, rubbing the right side of his neck and shoulders. Clearly he was not comfortable. So what to do?
Many occupations are very physically demanding although we may not always think so at first. As a dentist, you may be doing a root canal, or changing someone's bite and smile. All these procedures take time and requiresdentists to sit in awkward positions for extended periods of time. Many times they may have their shoulders raised up, their arms and hands extended out. At the end of day, they are physically tired and sometimes in pain. It is not common to have muscle spasms in the upper shoulders and neck. What feels like a "pinched nerve" may be a cervical sprain/strain.
So what else can he do? Similar to working on a computer all day, a dentist has to very careful about their position while working and make sure they take breaks during the day. Also it is important to be relaxed while working- albeit this may not be easy when you have a difficult case or a demanding patient.
Ice therapy can be an effective pain reliever- Applying an ice pack to the upper shoulder and neck can help to decrease the muscle spasm and provide an analgesic effect. Another great help is traction for the neck. One way to accomplish this is with a special support cushion called the Soothe-A-Ciser. Basically, you lie back on this cushion with your head hanging, looking up to the ceiling. The Soothe-A-Ciser works to alleviate neck pain by working to restore the natural curve of the neck as you lay over the pillow. The Soothe-A-Ciser Neck traction cushion uses the weight of the head to gently stretch the upper chest and anterior neck muscles, restoring the natural curve in the neck. Another idea is to use a home traction unit such as the Pronex Pneumatic traction unit, another great neck stretches that gives gentle neck traction to the cervical spine. Sleeping on a good cervical support neck pillow is also important to make sure that the head and neck are aligned properly while sleeping. The Cervical traction neck pillow accomplishes traction and support in one neck pillow.
I would also reccomend neck exercises to our friend. If done correctly they can increase your range of motion, mobility and strengthen the cervical spine. As you increase the mobility in your neck, you will notice greater range of motion and movement with less stiffness. These neck exercises are very simple actually: they involve flexing your head forward (bringing the chin to the chest), extending the head (looking up to the ceiling), laterally flexing (bringing the right ear to the right shoulder, and the left ear to the left shoulder), and finally rotation (turning the head from side to side). The best time of day to do these exercises is first thing in the morning. It is important to hold each stretch for at least 15-20 seconds. They can even done in the shower with hot water hitting the neck and upper back area.
Finally, it is important to address the muscle spasms that creating a very tight upper back and shoulder area. There are few good solutions for this. A massage can be very beneficial- especially deep tissue massage that works the upper trapezius and cerivcal paraspinal muscles. You can work on muscle spasms also by using a home tens unit. Tens units are often battery-operated devices that sends electrical impulses to certain parts of the body to block pain signals. The electrical currents produced are mild, but can prevent pain messages from being transmitted to the brain and may raise the level of endorphins (natural pain killers produced by the brain). Using a tens unit followed by ice can be very benefical. Also, using a natural pain relief gel like Biofreeze can help to break up trigger points and provide soothing relief.
Well did he listen? Not sure exactly. I think the Hot Sake helped him a great deal- it definitely relaxed him and he forgot about his "pinched nerve" for at least a few hours.
Additional Reading and Resources:
Neck Exercises- Diagrams and how-to for proper stretching of the neck
Best Neck Pillow for Sleep- Cervical traction neck pillow faq’s
Neck Posture- Setting up a proper workstation with a neck pain free zone
Visit Arc4life.com for your online selection of cervical support neck pillows, orthopedic pain relief products and Home traction units
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