I woke up feeling stiff and sore one day last week. While I’m not still sure what caused it, it hurt to move my head in certain ways when I got up that morning.
A few years ago I experienced a more painful version of this injury after sleeping in an odd position, so this time I didn’t delay in following the home treatments that had worked so well back then.
It was better to treat it immediately than to do nothing wait for it to slowly get worse like it did last time.
The Cycle of Pain and Muscle Spasms
Here’s the problem with this kind of muscle strain: the pain, stiffness, and limited range of motion feed into each other in a cycle that can be tricky to break.
The pain made my muscles in my neck and shoulder tense up and spasm. This was even more true in the evening when I was tired and feeling more sore than I had when the day began.
My muscles contracting made the strain hurt even more because I didn’t have the full range of motion in that part of my body. Positions that felt good for my muscles could be uncomfortable for my spine, and vice versa.
Not having the full range of motion in my neck and shoulder also made it difficult to truly relax. It was hard to turn my head in certain ways, for example, and sleeping in some positions was simply impossible.
Consciously trying to relax is also hard to do in this situation because I was so focused on how uncomfortable I was feeling.
One of the first things I did for myself after taking some over-the-counter pain relief medication was to find my microwave-actived heating pad. It’s a piece of cloth that’s filled with magical little beads. I don’t know what the beads are made of, but they warm up beautifully and can be wrapped around any sore part of a body. I especially enjoy the gentle pressure that this heating pad provides since sitting or lying in certain positions were simply not happening for me at that point.
The medicine and heating pad were temporary fixes, though. What I really needed to do was to break the cycle of tension and pain.
That’s where meditating came in very handy. While the heating pad and medicine were doing their work of temporarily making me feel better, I opened up my meditation app and started using a session in it called “Body Scan.”
“Body Scan” is a guided meditation program that begins with asking you to focus on your breathing. After you’ve done that for a minute or two, it has you methodically relax every single part of your body beginning with your scalp and working your way down your body until even your toes have gotten some attention. If you feel any sensation in a part of your body, you’re supposed to take note of it without labelling it as good or bad.
This is a lot harder to do than you might imagine when the sensation in that area is objectively painful! It is an important part of the process, though.
I’d never thought I’d spend so much time thinking about everything from my ears to my fingers to the small of my back, but it really does work if you focus on the speaker’s voice and follow her instructions.
This wasn’t a quick fix. With that being said, it did help me to relax some tense muscles that really needed to be soothed.
Time is by far the biggest healer of injuries like this, of course, but I also noticed another feedback loop developing that was much more positive than the first one.
Every time I meditated, my muscled relaxed a little more than they had in the previous session.
As they relaxed, my pain levels dropped even after I cut back or fully stopped using medication and only relied on heating pads for relief.
As my pain levels dropped, I was able to move my head in ways that had been difficult the day before.
As my range of motion slowly improved again, my muscles spasmed less.
I have no idea how – or even if – this would work for more severe or longterm types of pain. It was a nice bit of relief for a temporary injury, though, and I was very grateful for it once I got into the habit of meditating more than once a day during he duration of this injury.
How has meditating improved your life lately?