Posted 4/14/2019 8:34 AM (GMT -7)
Susie’s counsel to consider taking a respite from work using your available short-term disability benefits seems like a wise first step to bettering your situation.
Your cervical and shoulder pain pathologies are intertwined, which makes it challenging for your medical providers to find treatment modalities to provide long term pain relief.
Taking a concentrated period of time away from work (4-6 months) would give you helpful information as to how your daily routine and necessary activities affect your pain and your abilities to cope and adjust as an evolving process.
There is nothing easy about living with a chronic illness. From my personal vantage point, I am finding it harder to weather the psychological aspects of living with compromised health.
The human head is like a bowling ball, weighing in at about 8 pounds, perched on a thin pedestal. The biomechanics of the head and cervical spine and shoulder girdle are troublesome, at best. The cervical spine is not well designed to support the weighted density of the head. The cervical paraspinal muscles are thin and strap-like, traversing the length of 2-3 cervical segments in successive chain-like links. The paraspinal muscles are composed of slow-twitch fibers, which means that they are designed for simple stabilization and low energy muscle needs. Compare the paraspinal musculature to muscles like the quadriceps of the thigh or biceps of the arm. The quadriceps and biceps are broad and dense in design. They are composed of fast-twitch muscle fibers designed for power and gross strength and high energy muscle needs.
You can easily see how the paraspinal musculature is not well designed for supporting the head and upper body in the modern world where occupations involve prolonged sitting with the head in a forward posture (ex. office secretary or software analyst who works using computer; dental hygienist; hair stylist). The culprits: Forward position of the head; rounded shoulder posture; sitting; having a job which requires that the arms/shoulders be maintained elevated at shoulder height and up/away from the body center; having a job that involves repeated patterns of movement. You get the gist. After years and years, the body begins to rebell.
As a physical therapist, the most frequent job categories that I would see for therapy for cervical/shoulder dysfunction and impingement syndromes would be dental hygentists and dentists (by far), followed by office secretaries and salon hair stylists. The nature of the required job performance all contributed.
For you, time away from work would likely be immensely helpful in allowing your body to decompress from years of accumulated job stress that has added to your already impacting organic cervical/shoulder injuries.
We all hold muscle tension. Every muscle fiber has a baseline of muscle activity that is normal. It is like an appliance that is plugged into an electrical outlet and in waiting mode. Stress (real and perceived stressors) adds to a muscle’s resting muscle tension. When you hear an unexpected sound and startle, that is heightened muscle activity activated by a incoming stress. When incoming stress is constant and not abatting, the elevated muscle tension becomes toxic and detrimental to health. Muscles become fixed in active mode and do not relax. Trigger points, muscles that feel like a hardened length of rope, exquisitely painful muscle nodules, TMJ pain and locking are each examples of muscle tension that has become dysfunctional and detrimental to health.
Time away from work for 4-6 months would give your body a chance to lower the level of elevated muscle tension that is occupying your body. Decompressing would take time. It is not as simple as taking a day off of work. Heightened muscle tone becomes an ingrained neurological pathway, easily triggered by any number of extraneous events (a distressing argument with a friend, an unexpected bill in the mail). It takes time for the body to undue compensatory strategies that are no longer helpful.
Taking rest periods frequently during the day to lie down to rest your cervical and shoulder muscles is important. Your cervical muscles are exhausted from overuse simply keeping your head up. Use only a thin, single pillow under your head. You want to realign the head in postural alignment over the vertebral column.
Find a local fitness center that offers “water therapy” or “water arthritis exercise classes.” The benefits of the bouyancy of water, the muscle relaxing effects of warm water, and moving your body through full range of motion will have numerous benefits not found on gravity-impacted land based life. It can be time consuming and difficult to initially motivate oneself to go to a pool, but I guarantee you that once you get in the water and experience it’s inate benefits you will become a friend of water and you will look forward to going.
I did not mean for this to be a lengthy post when it began. Take what information appeals to you.
But I agree with Susie in her counsel to you to consider taking benefit of several months off of work using the STD benefits available to you.