The Weird Hack That Will Eliminate Back, Jaw, And Neck Pain
If I asked you whether you've ever suffered from chronic neck, back, or jaw pain, I'd be shocked if that answer was no. Most people have. In fact, chronic back pain is one of the most common reasons people go to the doctor.
Like me, many of you have tried all the go-to remedies like acupuncture, yoga, and stretching, topical CBD oil, massage—I've even had a few rounds of dry needling. They all provided varying degrees of temporary relief. (Keyword: temporary.)
Recently, I sat down with Rudy Gerhman, D.C., chiropractic doctor and founder of Physio Logic—an integrated wellness facility that has physical therapy, Pilates, massage therapy, clinical nutrition—to talk about the root cause of my chronic neck and jaw pain and better understand what I can do to reduce it. What I learned was surprising and changed my perspective on tackling chronic pain completely.
Why I had to rethink posture to understand how mine was causing pain.
When I think about posture, the first thought that pops into my mind is a teenager sauntering around with their shoulders slumped over. Am I the only one? I've always been told I have good posture, meaning I sit up and stand straight, so I didn't even consider the idea that my posture was causing my pain. But according to Dr. Rudy, "Posture is a subconscious behavior; you don't think of your postural muscles. You create these habits early in life that carry with you. Your muscles are like clay, and they mold into any position you hold them in. It's this cumulative effect." And it's not just about slouching or not slouching, it's also about favoring one side over the other. Asymmetry. Learning this, I started thinking about posture—and how to change it for less pain—in a whole new way.
I always used to think that my sore muscles were due to that one plane ride or bad night of sleep or holding all my "tension" in my neck (as I've been told by every massage therapist ever). Dr. Rudy informed me that just by the way I was sitting in the chair, he could see that one shoulder was higher than the other, my head was tilted, and I naturally shifted to one side. All of this created a weird curve in my spine and, according to Dr. Rudy, contributes to my pain.
The strange tactic I'm using to fend off chronic pain.
So what do you do about it? According to Dr. Rudy, it's a two-part plan. First, become more self-aware, and then, restore balance by doing the exact opposite of what you've been doing for your whole life. "Be cognizant of your subconscious behaviors. Set an alarm to remind you, and become more aware of your posture and how you're sitting. People have habits, and they're often shifted over in bizarre positions without realizing it. When you realize you're not straight, do the exact opposite." That means if you normally sit with your left leg crossed over your right knee, slouched onto your left elbow (like I do), switch and cross your right leg over your left knee and lean on your right elbow. Prepare yourself, it's going to feel way weirder than you think.
Dr. Rudy even suggests using your phone with your other hand, moving everything on the left side of your desk to the right, and vice versa, carrying your purse on the opposite shoulder, and even chewing on the opposite side. Once you've balanced yourself out, you can focus on using both sides equally. But right now, you should be focusing on being imbalanced in the opposite way you are now. It's sort of like tricking your mind into becoming more ambidextrous and balancing out the muscle weaknesses you've developed over time.
This might seem strange at first (I definitely thought it was), but so far I've found it really effective. It makes logical sense to me that fending off chronic pain isn't accomplished through an hour of acupuncture or a massage here and there. It's about what you're doing with your body for 40, 50, 60 hours a week, every week. According to Dr. Rudy, "You have to investigate your world and identify the microtraumas that are constantly occurring. You have to figure out what that is or no other modality—not physical therapy, not chiropractic, stem cells, dry needling, acupuncture—will help you."
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