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Have Neck Pain? The Cause Is Something That May Surprise You

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Most neck pain is psychosomatic. In order to understand this, though, it is first necessary to debunk the myth that spinal degeneration or tissue damage is the primary culprit.

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A degeneration problem that causes physical pain in the neck is a convenient and easy diagnosis for many doctors to make, because images of spinal degeneration can often be pointed to on an X-ray or MRI and named as the cause for pain. However, research has proven that degeneration problems are not the cause of most neck pain. The Orthopedic Clinics of North America published a study in July of 2005 that stated that degenerative disorders of the cervical spine (neck) do not usually cause any symptoms.(1)

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Confusion persists about this topic, because many times degeneration problems are found in conjunction with neck and other spinal pain issues, making doctors assume that they are the source of discomfort. This type of thinking has been around for so long and is so prevalent that it is hard to change the mentality of most doctors about what causes neck pain.

Simply perusing the medical advice Web sites for the search term “neck pain” can show examples of this. For example: Web MD states that the cause of neck pain is “abnormalities in the bone or joints, trauma, poor posture, degenerative diseases, tumors, muscle strain.”—no mention of mental stress.(2) This contrasts with a study published in the Journal of Rheumatology in December of 1991, stating: “Our findings show that neuroticism [mental stress] is a more powerful determinant of neck pain than radiological signs of disc degeneration or OA [osteoarthritis] in the general population.”(3)

Even the well-respected Mayo Clinic Web site fails to mention that mental stress can cause neck pain, giving only muscle strains, worn joints, nerve compression, injuries, etc., as possible causes.(4)

The Mayo Clinic’s information is contradicted by a study published in the medical journal Spine in January of 2003, concluding, “. . . there is no difference in reported pain and disability levels between those with and those without evidence of cervical spine [neck] degeneration.”(5)

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Tissue Damage?

neck_pain_skeletonAnother myth that is prevalent among doctors and the general public is that some sort of tissue damage has to occur in order for pain to exist in muscles.

The fact is, no tissue damage has to occur for muscles to send a pain signal. The book Muscle Pain: Understanding Its Nature, Diagnosis, and Treatment (recommended by the New England Journal of Medicine for doctors dealing with muscle pain),(6) states, “The stimulus intensity required for activating a muscle nociceptor [nerve cell that sends a pain signal] is usually lower than that for causing persistent tissue damage.”(7)

In other words, you can feel pain in a muscle without any tissue damage occurring.

So what is the physical source of your neck pain if doctors are usually wrong about degeneration and persistent tissue damage being the cause?

Cells Are People Too

The muscles and tissues in your neck are made up of cells. These cells have a whole life of their own, just like your body. They eat and breathe just like you do. You could think of cells in your body as miniature people. These tiny people need to breathe oxygen in order to function correctly. If they are deprived of oxygen, then their normal function is impaired and a pain signal may be sent to the brain as a result. This is known as tissue hypoxia.

If you have ever gone from a low elevation to a very high elevation, you understand the dynamics of oxygen deprivation.

I went into the mountains on a ski trip once, and I was reminded of what low oxygen feels like. As I was moving my luggage into where I was staying, I began huffing and puffing as if I had just run a marathon. My body was not acclimated to the lower oxygen levels at the higher elevation of the mountains. This created a reaction in my body that caused me to breathe heavily, trying to get more oxygen into my system, even though I was only moving small carry-on bags.

Just like I was huffing and puffing in the mountains, your cells have a reaction from low oxygen levels. But instead of “huffing and puffing,” cells actually have a chemical reaction that tells your nerves to send a pain signal to your brain.

Dr. Majid Ali states in his article “The Oxygen View of Pain,” “[I]t is important to recognize that oxygen drives chronic pain pathways primarily by its absence.”(8)

According to the neuroscientific journal Neurologija, “In the chronic muscle pain syndrome . . . the most likely cause of the pain is a combination of muscle tension and muscle hypoxia [low oxygen levels]. This conclusion is supported by the finding of a pathological distribution of tissue oxygen pressure in painful muscles. . . .”(9)

This lack of oxygen causing pain in muscles is seen in many studies across several disciplines, conducted by a variety of doctors and scientific organizations.

Why?  

Why is your autonomic nervous system not making sure that your muscles are supplied with adequate oxygen?

The central control for your autonomic nervous system is the non-conscious mind. It’s also known as the unconscious mind, but I’m going to refer to it as the non-conscious because the word “unconscious” is usually used to mean something like passed out or asleep.

I call it the non-conscious mind because you’re not mentally aware of all the decisions it’s making for your body. It tells your digestive system, kidneys, liver, etc., what to do without your having to think about it. Your body is running on automatic, controlled by your non-conscious mind.

Autonomic nerves go from your brain out to your body and tell all of your body systems what to do without your being aware of it. You might feel the results of what your non-conscious mind is telling your body—for example, when you are nervous and your heart races—but you are not consciously controlling those physical reactions. Your non-conscious mind sends out signals to your body, and your body responds to these signals with physical reactions, as in the case of lowered oxygen levels that cause pain.

Why would your non-conscious mind want to cause you to have neck pain?

Dr. John Sarno, a pioneer in information therapy for musculoskeletal problems, says that the non-conscious mind causes the body pain in order to distract a person so that repressed emotions like anger don’t surface.(10) I don’t agree with everything Dr. Sarno says, but I strongly agree with this assessment.

Protecting You With Pain

The non-conscious mind decreases the oxygen supply to muscles in your neck and causes you to have pain in order to keep you from acting in an anti-survival or anti-self-ideal way by distracting you.

When you have a stressful thought, you might be compelled to act contrary to socially acceptable behavior (anti-survival) or against your idea of who you think you are (anti-self-ideal). You might yell at your boss, for example, or act out your anger against a loved one. Yelling at your boss could be interpreted as anti-survival, and yelling at your loved one might go against your idea that you are a nice person.

Even though you consciously believe that you are not going to do anything outrageous, your non-conscious mind does not believe this, so it tries to protect you by distracting you from strong repressed emotions with pain—causing you to focus on your body instead of your anger. If you are focused on your neck pain then you are not feeling the anger or rage that might make you behave in a socially unacceptable way.

You might think that there is no way the non-conscious mind would try to hurt you. And that’s right. Remember the information from earlier—that no tissue damage has to occur for pain to be felt in the muscles? The non-conscious mind can use this aspect of pain receptors in muscle tissue to its advantage and create pain without damaging any tissue.

Since life can be stressful and many people don’t wish to act in anti-survival or anti-self-ideal ways, neck pain remains rampant in our society. The solution is making effective mind-body therapies widely available to the general public.

By Bruce R. King, D.C.

Sources:

1. Orthopedic Clinics of North America, vol. 36, issue 3,July 2005, pp. 255–62.

2. Retrieved April 15, 2012, from http://www.webmd.com/pain-management/guide/neck-shoulder.

3. Journal of Rheumatology 18(12), December 1991, pp. 1884–89.

4. Retrieved April 15, 2012, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/neck-pain/DS00542/DSECTION=causes.

5. Spine, 28(2), January 15, 2003, pp. 129–33.

6. Retrieved April 15, 2012, from http://www.amazon.com/Muscle-Pain-Understanding-Diagnosis-Treatment/dp/0683059289 (see editorial review of book at this web address).

7. Siegfried Mense and Robert D. Gerwin,

Muscle Pain: Understanding Its Nature, Diagnosis and Treatment (Philadelphia, PA) :Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2000), p. 54.

8. Retrieved April 15, 2012, from http://www.majidali.com/the_oxygen_view_of_pain.htm.

9. Neurologija 38(3), 1989, pp. 213–21.

10. John Sarno, M.D., The Mindbody Prescription: Healing the Body, Healing the Pain (New York, NY : Warner Books, 1999) p. 18.

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3 Powerful Tools to Help Overcome the Emotional Toll of the Pandemic

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    The pandemic has had a significant effect on our lives. Possibly without realizing it, many are suffering from a form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

  • Reflect On:

    If you feel stressed or feel that you have PTSD resulting from this pandemic, try these suggestions before resorting to medication or maladaptive coping strategies.

Before you begin...

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Take a moment and breathe. Place your hand over your chest area, near your heart. Breathe slowly into the area for about a minute, focusing on a sense of ease entering your mind and body. Click here to learn why we suggest this.

The pandemic has had a significant effect on our lives. Possibly without realizing it, many are suffering from a form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Every news cycle paralyzes us with fear of a new variant. Some feel grief over who or what they have lost or continue to have feelings of social disconnectedness. Despite what we have all been through, we need to start moving forward with our lives and truly live again. We must recognize that we have more control over our physical and mental health than advertised. The truth is that there are many helpful things that we can do.

PTSD is a stress-related disorder that may develop after exposure to a traumatic event or ordeal in which death or severe physical harm was a threat or occurred. Those with PTSD may experience agitation, irritability, hostility, hypervigilance, self-destructive behavior, social isolation, flashbacks, fear, anxiety, depression, attention difficulty, loneliness, insomnia, or nightmares.

Trauma can lead to feelings of powerlessness, but powerlessness can also keep us trapped in a PTSD cycle. The psychological imprint of trauma rewires the brain. There’s an old saying in neuroscience: “neurons that fire together wire together.” Our brain neurons begin firing in the amygdala, the emotional part of our brains, during a traumatic event. People can get stuck in an emotional loop, and the rational voice in their heads does not weigh in. This looping can cause a person to respond disproportionately to stress – freezing, panicking, or acting out in anger. Some dissociate or enter a trance-like state. Maladaptive coping skills can sometimes develop. Cutting, burning, overeating, drinking, drugs, overspending, etc., is all an attempt to dampen our painful emotional feelings. So, to avoid getting stuck in a PTSD cycle, we must act and take our power back.

Time to seek out the most effective help so that we can feel calm and in control again. What can we do?

1. Boost Your Immune System

If you fear getting sick, it’s time to live a healthier lifestyle and boost your immune system. Sadly, we are taught (with the help of pharmaceutical dollars) that health comes from a needle or a pill. Our “experts” recommend masks, hand-washing, social distancing, and mRNA vaccines. Still, they seldom suggest a healthy diet, supplements, and other natural remedies to help improve our health and support the body to fight off illness and disease. Click here for my article that includes 16 Tips on Boosting Immunity.

2. Embrace Spirituality

Over the last 20 years, I have been honored to have worked with many great therapists, healers, spiritual leaders, and trauma survivors to witness the power of Spirituality in healing. Spirituality is an inner belief system providing an individual with meaning and purpose in life. Whether it involves a higher power, nature, religious rituals, meditation, mindfulness, or prayer, the premise is to stay connected to the core of who we are. That place of stillness within us holding the memory of wholeness, peace, inner strength, and balance – despite what has happened. A spiritual philosophy or practice can provide us with a bigger context for our experiences and clarify our purpose. Spiritual methods also connect us with a sense of community and support. Finding our tribe is essential in the face of trauma and loss. The spiritual journey often allows us to go inside ourselves and listen to our inner guidance and “knowingness.” The inner voice may know, for instance, that the virus will not hurt us, or what we are being told by the media is untrue. Spirituality also helps us shift our perspective from “why me” to “what can I do about it. It brings us a sense of power and control.

3. Guided Imagery & Bilateral Stimulation

Both tools are essential for the trauma therapy toolbox. They are noninvasive and helpful for overcoming the effects of trauma. Guided imagery can help us alter the negative or stressful pictures and thoughts in our minds and help us create new, more peaceful ones—a form of instilling positive affirmations. Before you read on, I thought you might like to download my 10-minute exercise. This science-based, comprehensive video will help you to cultivate a sense of inner peace and give you a way to help overcome the effects of this pandemic – GET IT HERE

Is There Science Behind This?

Science, yes. Magic, no. This method requires regular practice if you want to make lasting, long-term changes to the ways that you think and feel. The good news is that both guided imagery and bilateral stimulation are widely practiced and well-established practices. However, I recommend that if you are still struggling after repeated listening, you find a qualified trauma therapist to continue the work you have already started.

A Look At The Research

Guided imagery is a behavioral technique using a series of verbal suggestions to guide oneself or others in visualizing an image in the mind to bring a desired response in the way of a reduction in stress, anxiety, or pain. A growing list of empirical literature supports the use of these techniques in various physical and emotional conditions. Guided imagery resulted in a clinically significant reduction in PTSD and related symptoms in a returning, combat-exposed active-duty military population. Positive affirmations can positively affect the brain’s circuitry. There is MRI evidence suggesting that specific neural pathways are increased when people practice self-affirmation tasks.

Numerous research articles have established that bilateral stimulation is one of the most effective treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Some therapists practice Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), a combination of psychotherapy and bilateral stimulation. EMDR is very effective for treating a wide range of mental health issues due to emotional and physical trauma. During bilateral stimulation, patients tend to “process” the memory in a way that leads to a peaceful resolution. And, often results in increased insight regarding both previously disturbing events and long-held negative thoughts about the self.

“Bilateral Stimulation induces a fundamental change in brain circuitry, similar to what happens in REM sleep. It allows the person undergoing treatment to process and incorporate traumatic memories into general association networks in the brain. This therapy helps the individual integrate and understand the memories within the larger context of their life experience.” – Robert Stickgold, Ph.D., Harvard Medical School

Takeaway

If you feel stressed or feel that you have PTSD resulting from this pandemic, try the above suggestions and download my helpful video before resorting to medication or maladaptive coping strategies. Also, you can discover the many mind-body practices you can do at home to help manage stress more successfully and so much more. SIGN UP HERE to receive your free download today. To purchase my book Healing Without Hurting, click here.

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Boosting Your Mood and Improving Your Health With Vitamin D

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Vitamin D is essential for proper immune functioning and alleviation of inflammation.

  • Reflect On:

    Are you or someone you love suffering from depression or an autoimmune disorder? When is the last time you checked your Vitamin D levels?

Before you begin...

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Take a moment and breathe. Place your hand over your chest area, near your heart. Breathe slowly into the area for about a minute, focusing on a sense of ease entering your mind and body. Click here to learn why we suggest this.

Are you or someone you love suffering from depression or an autoimmune disorder? It appears vitamin D deficiency may be to blame.

Vitamin D is essential for proper immune functioning and alleviation of inflammation. The beneficial effects of vitamin D on protective immunity are due in part to its impact on the innate immune system and has numerous effects on cells within the immune system. Vitamin D is also involved in maintaining the proper balance of several minerals in the body. And, it helps to ward off the flu and many viruses and treat them. The latest research links vitamin D deficiency to many disease states. These disease states include cancer, osteoporosis, heart disease, depression, arthritis, and just about every other degenerative disease.

 “Vitamin D reduces depression. In a randomized, double-blind study, People with depression who received vitamin D supplements noticed a marked improvement in their symptoms.” – Journal of Internal Medicine

According to the Nutrition Research Journal, as many as 80% of people are deficient in vitamin D. Inadequate exposure to sunshine, poor eating habits, malabsorption, the VDR genetic mutation, and accelerated catabolism due to certain medications, dark skin pigment color, and too much sunscreen can be to blame. 

A doctor can check vitamin D levels with a simple blood test. Many mainstream doctors will suggest that you are within normal limits if your levels are 20-30ng/mL. However, for optimal health, the Endocrine Society and many functional medicine M.D.s and naturopaths will recommend levels of between 40-70 ng/mL for both children and adults. These doctors will also recommend a more aggressive replenishment program. For example, at age five, my son’s level was 24. The pediatrician recommended 500iu daily of supplementation, while our naturopath recommended 5,000iu daily for six months before retesting. Six months later, his levels were almost normal. 

“Through several mechanisms, vitamin D can reduce risk of infections. Those mechanisms include inducing cathelicidins and defensins that can lower viral replication rates and reducing concentrations of pro-inflammatory cytokines that produce the inflammation that injures the lining of the lungs, leading to pneumonia, as well as increasing concentrations of anti-inflammatory cytokines” – PubMed

How to Increase Your Vitamin D Levels

Get enough sun. Vitamin D3, “the sunshine vitamin,” is the only vitamin your body that is made, with the help of the sun. So be sure to get enough sun exposure to help the body make this essential nutrient. Hold off trying to protect ourselves from the rays of the sun at every turn by slathering sunscreen. Allow yourself to play outside, garden, and enjoy the rays in moderation.

If you must use some sunscreen, avoid chemical sunscreens made with toxic chemicals that cause thyroid dysfunction, endocrine disruption, allergies, organ toxicity, reproductive toxicity, skin cancer, development, brain, and metabolism problems. Shop for natural mineral-zinc-based certified products instead. When exposed to scorching climates or in the sun for extended periods, we use sunscreens by Babyganics, Badger, Babo Botanicals, and Goddess Garden products.

Eat a well-balanced diet, with foods higher in vitamin D. Although it is believed that we only get twenty percent from the foods we eat. Some foods higher in D include cod liver oil, fish, oysters, eggs, and mushrooms. 

Get checked for the VDR mutation. A blood test will determine if you have mutations in the vitamin D receptor. The consequence can be lower vitamin D levels and the inability to absorb vitamin calcium and many other minerals properly. According to a 2020 scientific report, supplementation of vitamin D can help improve VDR gene expression, so more supplementation may be necessary if you have this mutation.

“Something so simple. Vitamin D supplementation could improve the health status of millions and so becomes an elegant solution to many of our health problems today.” – Carol L. Wagner, MD – Medical University of South Carolina

Supplementation 101. Supplementation is often critical if you cannot properly metabolize or absorb enough vitamin D or not get enough sunshine. In areas with long winters and specific populations of people with darker skin color, supplementation may be even more critical. There are many supplements on the market. However, many tablet forms are not as bioavailable and harder to absorb. Therefore, it has been recommended that liquid forms are better. In addition, liquid D is often suspended in olive oil, which helps the vitamins to absorb more easily since it is fat soluble. One of my favorite brands is by Seeking Health. It does not contain any impurities or allergy-inducing ingredients. 

Final Thoughts

Boosting the immune system naturally works on your body’s innate wisdom. It supports the body to operate like a well-oiled machine, protects it from unwanted pathogens and disease, and helps ensure a healthy body and mind.

To receive more info on how you and your family can overcome ADHD, apraxia, anxiety, and more without medication SIGN UP HERE or purchase my book Healing without Hurting.

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Click below to watch a sneak peek of our brand new course!

Our new course is called 'Overcoming Bias & Improving Critical Thinking.' This 5 week course is instructed by Dr. Madhava Setty & Joe Martino

If you have been wanting to build your self awareness, improve your.critical thinking, become more heart centered and be more aware of bias, this is the perfect course!

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General

Are Lockdowns Affecting Children?

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    We spoke to activist and mother Stephanie Sibbio about her co-creation of an organization called 100 Million Moms which seeks to empower women to stand up against injustices.

  • Reflect On:

    Are we choosing virus mitigation methods that are short sighted and harmful over the long term? Are they more harmful than the virus itself?

Before you begin...

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Take a moment and breathe. Place your hand over your chest area, near your heart. Breathe slowly into the area for about a minute, focusing on a sense of ease entering your mind and body. Click here to learn why we suggest this.

The potential downsides of lockdowns during pandemics have been explored quite a bit – and the truth is the scientific community is quite divided on whether it’s the right move. On one hand a case can be made for effectiveness of lockdowns, but at quite a cost, while on the other hand many have shown lockdowns to be ineffective in slowing spread. How a study is organized and conducted can also dramatically change results.

Interestingly a study in Nature showed that “less disruptive and costly NPIs can be as effective as more intrusive, drastic, ones (for example, a national lockdown).” This essentially states that governments could choose effective ways to mitigate virus spread effectively without inducing unwanted and long term side effects on society as a whole via lockdowns – regardless, lockdowns are still widely being used.

One question we might have is, what about factors that are not so easy to measure right away? Things like long term psychological damage of being constantly stressed, out of touch with community and friends, and confined to our homes. What affects are children experiencing in their development and learning? We may not know exactly for quite some time.

I felt inspired to speak to a mother who has not only be asking this question with regards to her child, but who has decided to do something to push back against government measures, like lockdowns, that many citizens and scientist don’t agree with.

Along with another activist, Stephanie Sibbio created a movement called 100 Million Moms who, as their Instagram states, are a rights-based movement empowering moms all over the world to stand up against injustice. We advocate for natural health & medical freedom.

I spoke to Stephanie about how she has seen lockdowns affecting children, and her story in co-creating 100 Million Moms. In this discussion you will learn how you can get involved as well.

Further Discussion

A large meta analysis on mask wearing has shown that children are having physiological issues and learning challenges with prolonged mask wearing.

A group of doctors did a panel worth considering that discusses the potential harms of lockdowns and the science that supports the idea.

Dive Deeper

Click below to watch a sneak peek of our brand new course!

Our new course is called 'Overcoming Bias & Improving Critical Thinking.' This 5 week course is instructed by Dr. Madhava Setty & Joe Martino

If you have been wanting to build your self awareness, improve your.critical thinking, become more heart centered and be more aware of bias, this is the perfect course!

Click here to check out a sneak peek and learn more.

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