Ouch, my stupid neck

Posted by on July 17, 2009 in Training

I don’t really know how it happened, but I woke up last week with one of worst sore necks in recent memory.  Actually, it’s not clear to me if it happened because of sleeping with my head/neck at a near-right angle to the body or if I pulled something while doing pull-ups.  I bought this thing called the Iron Gym which is essentially a pull-up bar that fits in a doorway.  Unlike the old-school type that is somewhat spring-loaded between two walls, this mechanism sort of wraps around and doesn’t use tension or springs.  In any event, I only have one true internal doorway… to my bathroom.  So, installing it there kills two birds with one stone:  I have a place to use it and I get to take care of the vanity component since I face the mirror when using it.

My usage pattern ebbs and flows, but lately, I’ve been on a tear.  With a very good diet as of late, and with so much use of this Iron Gym, I’m seeing pretty good results, or so I tell myself.  I’ll literally walk by the bathroom, see the apparatus out of the corner of my eye, and suddenly feel inspired to do a set.  I think that in one of those spur-of-the-moments, I might have yanked something in the neck/spine area near the clavicle.  Then, the near-right angle sleep position must have exacerbated it.

The end result has been pain.  It’s not neuro, or at least there’s nothing that points to it like a very sharp pain.  It’s dull generally and just a bit sharper if my posture becomes poor.  Quick remedies have been Advil and maintaining very good posture.  I’m a habitual sloucher while at the computer (which comprises 80% of my work day and 50% of my at-home time), so I really have to focus to be in a good position.  The most noticeable effect has been on training.

A few friends have asked if the pain is because of cycling.  Triathletes, by virtue of the non-drafting rule, have to be as aerodynamic as possible which most times translates to riding in an aero position with aero-bars, and with the body in a certain ideal position.  With a near-flat back, one is forced to crane the neck to see the road ahead and during Ironman training, I often complained of neck pain.  I remember while training for Ironman Brazil, Deborah had to really work me over with special massage oil after a couple of long training rides.  I was in terrible pain.

I have a high pain threshold generally, so I typically just work through it.  At some point, I may consider seeing a professional to determine if there is a clinical solution.  I’m generally loathe to seeing doctors but not because of any disdain for the medical profession; rather, I’m a healthy guy, maintain a healthy lifestyle, and luckily haven’t gotten really sick.  These little problems that I have, e.g. the neck thing, would probably go away if I didn’t engage so heartily into sports and the like.  We’ll see though; I may just go to an orthopedist to make sure that I cover all bases.  You know me!

This Sunday is the Montauk Lighthouse Sprint Triathlon.  The bike course is only 14 miles and features a few climbs, and only one of them is steep.  My expectation is tear apart the course and not hold back at all.  That should result in less of an effect on the neck.  The next race is the NYC Triathlon and while longer, is a course I’ve done five times already.  That knowledge of the course will hopefully break it down into smaller pieces, thus psychologically making it a shorter bike course than the 24.8 miles that actually comprise it.  Thereafter I’ll only have one more tri, the Central Park Triathlon, before shifting the entire focus to NYC Marathon training.

The cycling seems to exacerbate the neck issue the most, but there is still some effect from running.  Usually, that goes away within minutes.  It’s funny; last night, I met up with a good friend for a light run (which wound up being something like 8 miles in 250% humidity!) and in the first half-mile, everything was bothersome, neck included.  I’ve chalked it up to just working out the kinks since I settled down pretty easily thereafter.  The rest of the discomfort was totally because of the kryptonite effect humidity has on me.  It’s quite pathetic.

Hopefully, with a package of massages that I bought from my friend Elisa, I’ll get this stuff worked out in August, Sept, and Oct in advance of the big day on November 1st.  More to come on marathon expectations in later posts.

Next post will be about how well I (hopefully) did in Montauk.  Wish me luck!

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