As with many other common symptoms, fibromyalgia neck pain can really be frustrating.
I know, I say it often…fibromyalgia causes widespread pain and stiffness and can affect nearly any part of the body, but neck pain is still one of the more noticeable symptoms. We use our neck muscles for hundreds of small daily activities, including turning our head when someone calls our name, while cleaning or bending, and supporting our head when we are in bed. Those muscles and their supporting structures can stop us from enjoying daily life if we don’t take care of this vulnerable area.
Eliminate Other Potential Causes
If your fibromyalgia neck pain is persistent and continues to increase, consider an appointment with your doctor or chiropractor. Tell him or her when the pain surfaced and note whether it’s constant or comes and goes at certain times.
Your doctor should give your neck a thorough exam and may want to run some tests to eliminate injuries and any other medical conditions that can explain your pain. You might also discuss your lifestyle patterns that can exacerbate fibromyalgia neck pain.
With a simple x-ray, they can assess the curvature of your neck. If you have lost that natural curvature, this can increase pain and stiffness. Work on restoring that curvature by lying on a cervical pillow as much as possible.
I have used a device at home called a “Dakota” that also helps to restore the natural curve of the neck. You might ask your chiropractor or physical therapist if they sell these. They are inexpensive and easy to use.
Simply by lying on the Dakota (looks like a large triangular piece of sturdy foam with a forehead tension adjuster) a few minutes per day, you can be on your way to improving that natural curvature that many people lose or compromise from excessive cell phone use, computer use, television watching and more.
Simply adjusting how you sit and making it a point not to sit for longer than 20-30 minutes at one time can be helpful for some types of neck pain. If you have determined your neck pain is due to fibromyalgia, you should still keep those preventative measures in mind. It’s also important to remember that simple things like stress or changes in the weather may cause increased neck pain in fibromyalgia.
Severe neck pain can also exacerbate symptoms in other systems of the fibro body. It can stifle breathing, leaving you with shallow breathing. It can affect the thyroid and adrenals as well due to the stress and close proximity to the thyroid gland. Yes, there are many reasons that we need to take extra care for this vulnerable area of the body.
Cellphones, Computers, and TV Screens
It is important to not perpetuate fibromyalgia neck pain with daily activities such as excessive use of our cellphones, computers, and TV. You see, with fibromyalgia, we will tend to feel the pain of repetitive motion, sitting, standing or staying in one position long before a non fibro person might feel it.
So let’s say you put your neck in a compromising position for merely a few minutes, or even seconds, you could cause a major pain in the neck before you know it.
The key is to avoid habits that compromise our mobility, because with fibromyalgia, it can be much less forgiving!! When using your cellphone, instead of looking DOWN at the phone, prop it up on something so it is closer to eye level. This will help to avoid what we sometimes call “straight-neck”, commonly occurring from use of cellphones.
Keeping the natural curvature of our neck is important. You know how a pain in the neck can travel and radiate, and we want to avoid activation of trigger points at all cost. I continue to recommend Myotherapy done by MT’s which is hands on trigger point release. This therapy is less invasive and more effective when done properly.
You see, it is imperative that we properly treat the underlying trigger points, not just cover them up, because in the upper back and neck, they will only get worse if not treated. Medications and cover ups cannot accomplish this.
Treating Fibromyalgia Neck Pain
Not knowing the cause of your fibromyalgia neck pain doesn’t mean that you can’t treat it for relief. If you currently use any kind of alternative or non invasive pain relief, that of course can be a good thing, but at the same time, we want to be sure we are not covering up any root causes.
I believe this to be true for most symptoms in fibromyalgia. As always, my goal for everyone is a better quality of life. Let’s also be sure we are not attributing every symptom to fibro so that we don’t miss another condition.
You can also do gentle neck exercises to stretch the muscles and encourage greater flexibility. Some of these stretches may cause minor discomfort at first, but they can bring some relief when used consistently.
Simply turning your head from one side to the other and holding the position for a few seconds on each side may help. You can also use body resistance to lightly strengthen the upper neck muscles. Hold one palm against your forehead while pushing your head forward and concentrating on the back of your neck and hand resisting one another.
Also follow on the fitness page, Fibro Fit People, (video section) where I address the neck and other common areas with simple and effective exercises developed for fibromyalgia. You will see where I wear a soft neck support even when performing some upper body exercises, simply to protect the neck.
A very different travel pillow for the neck?
There is a product available that will provide the support I’m talking about. Its called the Trtl Pillow.
I recommend using hot or cold compresses on your neck. You may try rotating between ice and the heat to help increase circulation which can in turn, reduce pain levels. Even just a warm cloth around the neck can feel soothing, especially before bed.
Moving, Positioning, Resting
The worst thing that you can do for a painful or stiff neck is rest in one position for a long time. Maybe you’re scared to move your neck because you don’t want the pain to worsen, but the lack of movement is likely to create more stiffness which leads to more pain when you do have to move. You don’t want to jerk your head around, but you do need to keep your neck in motion throughout the day.
I find that propping one’s head on the side of the couch is one of the worst positions for someone with fibromyalgia. Avoid lying or sitting on a couch too long, as they are not made to properly support the body.
Fibromyalgia neck pain is debilitating in some cases, especially when it comes with headaches and pain in other areas of the body. It is all too easy to activate a latent trigger point around the upper back, neck and shoulders. If you do, please know that it might take a few days of self care to calm those trigger points and tender areas. This is just an especially vulnerable area.
I say it often as a reminder to accept and protect your body. Do not worry if your way of relaxing might be lying down where someone without fibromyalgia may find sitting is a nice way to relax. The point is to protect the body as needed while avoiding positions that will easily aggravate pain.