Off with my neck!

Today I woke up in excruciating pain at about 3:00 AM.

Somehow during the night I buggered up my neck. I had done a workout last night, and had stretched my neck, but ‘m presuming tension was building up that the stretching did not alleviate. Anyways, some time in the night I made a wrong move, and my neck was totally immobile.

I’ve been having this problem since about 1992, when I was rear-ended by a guy in a pickup doing at least 65-75 kph. I was a university student at the time, and was driving a tiny Nissan Micra. Three stiff and sore days later, I was gingerly trying out a workout when something went crack and I had this wierd fuzzy sensation in my neck.

I laid down to give my neck a rest, but when I tried to get up, couldn’t. My head was glued to the workout mat. You have no idea how heavy your head is until your neck muscles go on strike. So I asked for help, went through the whole neck brace/ambulance/hospital/X-rays rigamarole, and was discharged that same night with a neck spasms and general pain. Over the next few days it got slowly better.

Occasionally after that I would have relapses, but not until about 6 years ago – when I was involved in another rear-ender – did they become fairly regular and frequent. It was a very low-impact accident, but I had a stiff neck almost immediately – somehow it tweaked my neck sufficiently to cause problems.

Ever since then, I’ve had this sort of cycle: stiff neck, something snaps, excruciating pain, and almost uncontrollable neck spasms. Lately it’s been happening about 4 times a year. I tweak it, it hurts, I spend an hour of the morning in a hot bath, relaxing my muscles, and it gradually goes away.

But last night was different. It was worse – way worse. Usually, after this sort of thing, I can at least maintain some semblance of being able to function. But this time, I just could not get up. My usual strategy of holding my head up with my hands while getting vertical was not working. In my hour-long attempt to get out of bed, I ended up with my knees on the floor but my head attached to the bed. Lifting my head with my hands was not working, and I was getting almost continuous and excruciating neck spasms.

Teresa had no choice but to call the paramedics. 15 minutes later they were at our house. They strapped a neck brace on my and pumped me up with laughing gas (nitrous oxide). With the nitrous coursing through my veins and the brace on my neck I was able to stand up and get downstairs to the stretcher.

(Interesting: nitrous oxide is a dissociative drug … you still have the pain, but it’s blocked from reaching your brain.)

The paramedics got me to the hospital, where we had the usual hurry-up-and-wait routine. But finally a doctor saw me, prescribed a shot of morphine and gravol, a neck brace, and a prescription for a muscle relaxant. A nurse gave me the morphine and gravol in the nether regions, we had to pay $14 for the neck brace, and we were on our way out.

Teresa and I decided to fill the prescription right away. Big mistake. We came into London Drugs to get it, me motoring along with the brace on my neck at about the pace of a baby crawling, and Teresa gave them the prescription.

Then I started to feel faint – the morphine was making it out of my gluteous maximus and into my system. I had to sit on a bench. Teresa grabbed me, and apparently my eyes rolled back in my head. I don’t remember much of this, but I remember coming to rather muzzily, still sitting on the bench, the sweat of the world dripping from me. Everything was kind of dark and distant, as if I was dreaming my experience into existence.

The London Drugs manager called for an ambulance again, and they showed up in record time, maybe 5 minutes. But I had no stomach for going to the hospital again, since I knew they would simply admit me and keep me under observation. And besides, I was already starting to feel better. All I really needed to do was lie down and sleep. So the paramedics (thankfully, a different set this time) wheeled me out to Teresa’s van in a wheelchair, I got in, Teresa drove home in a most old-ladyish manner (out of sympathy for my extremely sensitive neck), and I collapsed onto the sofa.

That’s where I’ve spent most of my day, drifting in an out of almost-sleep. The big question is: how will my neck feel tomorrow?

I’m hoping it will be way better, but I’ve never had this severe a case of neck spasms before. It’ll all depend on whether or not I get a good night’s sleep tonight and don’t re-injure my neck while I’m asleep.

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