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1 Month Neck "Tightness" & Trapezius Pain After Hitting My Head

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  • 1 Month Neck "Tightness" & Trapezius Pain After Hitting My Head

    Hi BBM team! First of all I would like to thank you all for the work that you're doing. I've been lifting for over a year and discovered BBM's approach to pain management only a week ago. Coming from a "perfect" technique and mobility/prehab-obsessed, nocebo background, it was immensely refreshing to read your articles and listen to your podcasts. I've been on a BBM binge ever since. And once again I want to say thank you for making me realize that we are resilient and adaptable, rather than frail. Your approach has worked wonders to help me control my catastrophizing ways.

    I'm writing this post today because a month ago (March 7) I hit my head with my barbell's sleeve. I took a step back and the back of my head (right where the trapezius ends) hit the barbell sleeve. I had not even begun to train that day. If I had to rate the pain, I would say it was a 6. Nevertheless, I went on with my training session and everything went well. Later during the day, I started noticing pain when extending my neck. My initial belief was that I had hyperextended my neck during my bent-over rows and RDLs and that that was the cause of pain. As I said, I come from a "perfect technique" obsession background so I recorded all my sessions and after looking at the videos, my neck was not hyperextended. I also did not do any new exercise. All my exercises for the day were ones that I had been doing for more than a month. Same dosage. Plus, this had never happened before. Anyways, I was still convinced that my neck position on the rows or RDLs was the cause of the pain and that it would calm down by the next session (two days later).

    Throughout the week, the extension pain did calm down, but what I did notice was that my neck felt very tense. For example, if I was on my bed, lying down on my stomach and I would raise/extend my neck a bit, then I would quickly feel some fatigue or "tightness" in it that made me go back to a neutral neck position for it to calm down. I did not put much thought into it other than that it was the consequence of the neck extension on Sunday's (March 7) session. I still thought that it would go away, but it didn't.

    The following week on the 17th, I remember I woke up with neck feeling particularly "tight". After my morning shower, I looked down, taking my neck into flexion and I felt as if I had pulled on a muscle (or something) on my neck causing it to snap by doing that flexion motion, followed by a sudden, sharp pain on my upper left trapezius (near my left shoulder) and along the left side of the neck. I quickly realized that I could not tilt my head to the left because it hurt and lot. I was also unable to fully extend the neck because of the pain. Moving the neck to the other side was fine and without pain. After looking in a mirror, I realized that my neck had lost ROM. Naturally, I started googling like crazy and found things like wry neck/torticollis, whiplash, and a bunch of other things. That day I applied ice to the area and anti inflammatory gel. The exact spot on the traps hurt when I toughed it like a bruise and you could feel a lump. The area around it was red, but to be fair, I was never sure if it was red before the ice or after it. I started taking anti inflammatories from that day and also continued to apply the gel.

    The next day I woke with my neck slightly bent to the opposite side of the painful area and I could not set it back straight. As I kept googling, I came across the infamous "trigger points" and was promptly convinced that this was the issue. I started to panic as I read of cases from people who were never able to get rid of them as I feared for my training progression to stall big time because of it. In spite of that, that day I trained and did not deload by any means. The next day I woke up feeling better and I attributed it to my training session (although I cannot say with certainty that it was because of it). However during the weekend it started to get worse, as I started feeling another "knot" in my right trap by Sunday and feeling tight in my lower traps and even lower back. Needless to say, I catastrophized.

    By Monday 22, I was getting desperate seeing little progress (my neck position did go back to normal by Sunday or Monday, but all else the same or worse), so I talked to an orthopedic physician that same day. He agreed that they were trap trigger points and that they took quite a while to go away. He prescribed me an anti inflammatory, a muscle relaxant, and said to continue applying my anti inflammatory gel. He also asked me to go for an X-Ray of my cervical spine to see if the neck had gone back to normal. Thankfully, he did not ask me to stop lifting, just to lower the intensity. I was very happy after my consult, thinking that now with an actual treatment (and the confirmation from a doctor that I should not stop lifting) I would get better.

    The next day I did not deload or anything, just followed my regular training numbers for that day, hit some PRs and felt great after that. I did however deload for the next session of that week as I had agreed to start a deload week, my expectations being that the week was all it would take to heal and then go back to my regular progression.

    That same week on Thursday I started feeling some tingling and pinching on my hands, forearms, and some numbness on my left ring finger. I realized that it was probably some irritated nerves due to my neck being like that and when I asked my doctor, he said it was possible. On Friday I woke up feeling bad after a rough night feeling my upper traps constantly tense even the part of the trapezius that's attached to the skull. I remember even combing my hair that day was a bit painful. Like that whole area of the muscle felt super tender. By Saturday 27 my neck felt a lot more loose.

    I had decided that I would take the week of Sunday 28 off to allow myself to fully recover and then go back to training, but I was never fully convinced with that idea, because I really wanted to train. Monday 29 was the wonderful day in which I got into Barbell Medicine and thanks to that and the plethora of articles, videos, content you all have published on these topics, I decided that I should not stop training and that I would train what I could without making my symptoms worse. That week I trained, lowering my intensities, RPE, volume and figuring out what I could do without making my symptoms worse. I felt good overall last week. Neck straight and much more loose (almost felt like normal) and my "trigger points" barely hurt. It seemed like I would be out of the mud by the time this week came, however that was not the case.

    On Sunday 3, I was watching a movie at night when all of the sudden, my neck got super tight again. The anti inflammatory treatment wasn't even over yet. I was supposed to take the last one that night and yet my symptoms regressed. Ever since Sunday night, it's been getting worse as it was when it was getting started. With the exception that I don't have torticollis or nerve irritation. But my traps hurt and my neck gets very tight and uncomfortable. Sleeping is also very uncomfortable. I feel like I have to move it in order to "release" the the "tightness" that I feel. Whenever I do this, I can hear the muscle "cracking" for lack of a better word. It kind of sounds like muffled bubble wrap whenever I moved my neck to release the tightness.

    As I write this post, my neck has been bothering me a lot from the upper traps near both shoulders, to the neck, to the back of the skull and the points near the shoulders hurt when touched. So I wanted to write this post because I would like to know your opinion on this and any advice. As for the cause, I don't think that the training caused this. For quite a while I've been linking this to the moment I hit my head with the barbell. I did not even mention that to the doctor because at first I did not even consider it, but after a while I started considering it, since it all started on that day and I do not hurt my head regularly haha. By the way, I know that there is little supporting evidence for trigger points from reading other posts on this forum, which is another reason why I decided to write this, I would like to understand better what's going on with my traps. Also wanted to mention that during the last few training sessions, nothing has caused pain while performing the exercises. It seems like this gets better or worse regardless of whether I train or not. But who knows.

    Anyways, long post, but thank you for everything and I appreciate your time!

    - Daniel

  • #2
    danielzy - Hey Daniel, sorry to hear about your neck situation. Did you get the x-ray completed? If so, what were the results?

    Barring anything found on the x-ray (example fracture), then this is likely just going to take longer to resolve than you expected. Trust me when I say, I can relate. I started having similar symptoms to yours back in the second week of February and have bene modifying activity since. It's not a fun process and tests one's patience but as time goes on and activity is regulated appropriately, you will likely notice improvements. If you are interested, we do offer individual remote consultations where we can talk more about your situation and provide individual advice. You can complete our intake paperwork HERE.

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    • #3
      Hi Dr. Michael! I did, the neck is normal, no fractures whatsoever. And yes, it definitely tests one's patience!

      Yesterday I trained in the evening with very moderate RPEs and my neck got better after that. Right before going to sleep it flared up again, but today it has been feeling better than yesterday for sure. I am no longer taking any meds and only occasionally apply the anti inflammatory gel, which I'm about to run out of. Do you recommend that I keep using it or should I just keep regulating my activities?

      Sorry to hear that you have also been experiencing something like this. Is this your first time with those symptoms? I guess I'm looking for some reassurance that it is something that will go away. I believe that something from that March 7 training session is what lead to this, whether it was hitting my head or something else (even though hitting my head was the only abnormality from that training session). That's when the neck issues started after all and I hadn't had any neck issues before. I understand that it may not be possible to determine if it was in fact the cause of my neck problems, but even still, I wanted to share these thoughts with you all and get some feedback on them.

      And yes, I will definitely consider the remote consultation. I am so glad that you offer them. Before discovering BBM, I felt like getting help from doctors who understand strength training and practice it themselves was hopeless. Thanks a lot for your response!

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      • #4
        Originally posted by danielzy View Post
        Hi Dr. Michael! I did, the neck is normal, no fractures whatsoever. And yes, it definitely tests one's patience!

        Yesterday I trained in the evening with very moderate RPEs and my neck got better after that. Right before going to sleep it flared up again, but today it has been feeling better than yesterday for sure. I am no longer taking any meds and only occasionally apply the anti inflammatory gel, which I'm about to run out of. Do you recommend that I keep using it or should I just keep regulating my activities?

        Sorry to hear that you have also been experiencing something like this. Is this your first time with those symptoms? I guess I'm looking for some reassurance that it is something that will go away. I believe that something from that March 7 training session is what lead to this, whether it was hitting my head or something else (even though hitting my head was the only abnormality from that training session). That's when the neck issues started after all and I hadn't had any neck issues before. I understand that it may not be possible to determine if it was in fact the cause of my neck problems, but even still, I wanted to share these thoughts with you all and get some feedback on them.

        And yes, I will definitely consider the remote consultation. I am so glad that you offer them. Before discovering BBM, I felt like getting help from doctors who understand strength training and practice it themselves was hopeless. Thanks a lot for your response!
        That's good to hear regarding the x-ray. I do not typically recommend long term (read for weeks) NSAID usage. Without consulting with you and based on the information you've provided here, this does sound like your situation will improve but is just going to take more activity modifications and patience with the process. Your situation sounds similar to mine from the standpoint I didn't really start noticing improvements until I stopped trying to push the limits with my symptomatic experience. Down-regulating beyond what I thought I needed has helped a lot but it took admitting that to myself and embracing the process to see solid sustainable improvement vs lots of highs and lows like you are describing. I would recommend regulating activity below what you are expecting is needed so those symptom spikes after training are happening less and less.

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        • #5
          Alright sounds good. I’ll be experimenting with that and see what results I get. Thanks for your time and this helped a lot! I’ll post update here whenever this heals! Hope your symptoms continue to get better!

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