The Crooked Underbelly of Boarding
Early in the spring of 2012 I damaged my neck while snowboarding on a couple of separate occasions. These accidents were just your typical becoming-a-human-snowball or sliding-on-your-face affairs, sort of. They hurt worse than the average snow smash but since “fun hurts” is kind of my mantra, I didn’t think much of them…at first. However, as the snowboarding season ended and the world greened up, Neckland became a strange place for me. I began to get awful neck kinks on a regular basis, one of which resulted from a 10 minute nap I took while lying in a normal position. What the what? Then I started having difficulties sleeping on my right side. I’d get a terrible pain in that part of my neck when I tried to do so. Additionally, a place near my shoulder blade on the left side was giving me a whole lot of grief. By early fall I’d reached my restless night limit and I decided to go see a chiropractor that several of my coworkers recommended.
On my first visit, this chiropractor took an X-ray to see if anything was obviously amiss. I’ve included that telling image below. Although I was holding my neck “straight” when the X-ray was taken, it appears askew. My chiropractor had a hard time believing that I hadn’t been in an automobile accident considering how crooked I was; I guess he doesn’t work on a lot of ill-fated snowboarders. Given my degree of movement restriction, he had me come in for adjustments and electrotherapy every couple of days that first month or so. And speaking of adjustments, I learned from him that those popcorn-popping sounds you hear when a chiropractor tweaks your neck mean that parts that should be moving freely have become fixed. If you neck was completely normal, when adjusted it would make no sound at all.
In theory, when undergoing treatments like this, your joints loosen up and then the muscles around them. However, my muscle filaments vehemently refused to slacken. I guess they are as stubborn as the rest of me. Since they would not relax, for weeks I went through alternating two or three-day cycles of pain and relief as my back improved but refused to stabilize.
Over the next few months, I was told by my chiropractor again and again that the right side of my neck felt like a rope with tense muscles running all the way down it. This, I was informed, is not normal. Women do carry their stress in their upper back and shoulders while men tend to keep theirs in their middle or lower back but, apparently, my degree of tightness was a little beyond ridiculous.
From September until December I was uncomfortable frequently. The last few hours of work every day were usually a challenge due to my throbbing back. Both sides of my neck threw fits off and on. The area near my left shoulder blade often ached horribly, which I discovered was from a rib popping out of place and related to my neck problems. I’d also regularly experience discomfort when turning my head. It seemed like my spine was as full of drama as an episode of The Jerry Springer Show but finally, come the middle of December, I started to feel pretty good. Apart from a little stiffness, my back looked as if it was on its way to becoming a nonissue. I only had to see the chiropractor every three weeks and my neck was hardly popping during his adjustments.
That progress continued until January and then abruptly halted due to two events: 1. the start of the snowboarding season 2. a snowmobiling accident. Snowboarding, crash or no, is kind of the bane of me as it turns out. Each time I’d hit the slopes this season, they’d return the favor. I’d feel okay while on the mountain but the next day everything in my back and neck would be popped out of place. My chiropractor said that this is because once we have weak spots any strain will trigger them. The tree I hit while snowmobiling later that month did some triggering of its own. Sorry back, I didn’t realize you were so darn particular about collisions and whatnot.
By the end of February, it seemed like most of the popcorn from my snowmobiling incident had been worked out of my system and nothing stood between me and a relatively normal neck except that hazardous winter hobby of mine, that really amazing hazardous winter hobby of mine. Several people have asked me recently if I’m going to give up boarding due to my bad back. Seriously people? Knowing me you should already know the answer to that.
I was told by my chiropractor that, in addition to being a casualty of powder power, my back problems are partly due to my constant computer use. If you are also on a PC way too much, you probably suffer from chronic slouch as well; a forward hunch is the most common posture people assume when trying to glean info from their sacred screen. To counteract this issue, first, don’t slouch (duh) and second, do rearward shoulder stretching exercises regularly. My chiropractor showed me a few of these that I can do quickly throughout the day. They seem to help quite a bit.
Roughly ten months after I started treatment, my neck is doing pretty good. It aches a bit as work drags on and gets a little stiff from time to time but I don’t wake up in pain or, worse yet, stay awake in pain anymore. I’m still having to visit my chiropractor every few weeks and he still comments about how absurdly tense my shoulders and upper back are but, compared to last fall, my neck’s life is practically a party these days.
On a side note, I quite like my chiropractor. If you’re in the market for one, I’d be happy to give you his name.