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Alex B. Overcoming obsession with cracking neck to relieve pain

Discussion in 'Ask a TMS Therapist' started by determined07, Jul 1, 2015.

  1. determined07

    determined07 Newcomer

    This question was submitted via our Ask a TMS Therapist program. To submit your question, click here.

    Hi, i am new here and have had more relief when i am active. I am always so obsessed with trying to relieve my tension by cracking my neck and my ribs and shoulder blade. I feel like its all i want to do. Im completely obsessed with it. Its better when im working and doing a lot of deep breathing. When i stand without a task or sit i just wanna keep cracking the soreness. Its so frustrating because its only making it worse. Often my back cracks just from me taking a deep breath and thats actually where my pain began. I coughed so hard once that i had incredible pain and it hasnt gone away since. Clicking in and out of my ribs has been a complete obsession and then my neck started about a year ago when a doctor attributed my rib and shoulder blade pain to my neck. Im afraid to have my arm up because it hurts my neck and im afraid to put it down because it presses against my ribs. I have no peace when im not busy. So that brings me to another point, how can i get better from activity when it is resting that seems to preoccupy my mind the most?
  2. Alex Bloom LCSW

    Alex Bloom LCSW TMS Therapist

    Hi and thanks for this question, it's a good one!

    Preoccupation with the symptoms is a major issue that almost everyone on these forums has faced and it comes up time and again. It can be very discouraging and works to undermine the entire process; if you can't even stop thinking about it then how could you ever overcome the fear of your symptoms? I sympathize with your frustration. I can tell you that it is possible to overcome this preoccupation. To do so, I found that it is helpful to understand what is driving this mechanism.

    What you are dealing with is a maladaptive method for making yourself feel safe. The good news is that you are seeking security and reassurance. The bad news is that you are doing so in a way that is actually not functioning well for you. Each time you crack your knuckles/back/ribs/neck etc., it is being driven by your unconscious mind's need for reassurance. It's as though your mind is saying "if I crack right now and it feels better I'll feel so safe! So why don't I crack and hopefully it works out and maybe I'll get some relief from this tension". Of course, it doesn't work out as you still are preoccupied and you get no relief.

    So instead of feeding into this mechanism by continuing to be preoccupied, monitoring your symptoms constantly and compulsively cracking, understand that this is your unconscious mind telling you that it needs assurance. Instead of trying to get this from cracking and monitoring (maladaptive) you can gain it from self-talk, meditation, mindfulness and the like (adaptive). With practice, this can function to soothe the part of you that is feeling vulnerable and in need of care. The first step in this process is understanding why you are doing what you are doing and intervening by practicing a more helpful approach. It won't necessarily change things immediately but it will help you to confront and overcoming this daunting habit of preoccupation.

    Any advice or information provided here does not and is not intended to be and should not be taken to constitute specific professional or psychological advice given to any group or individual. This general advice is provided with the guidance that any person who believes that they may be suffering from any medical, psychological, or mindbody condition should seek professional advice from a qualified, registered/licensed physician and/or psychotherapist who has the opportunity to meet with the patient, take a history, possibly examine the patient, review medical and/or mental health records, and provide specific advice and/or treatment based on their experience diagnosing and treating that condition or range of conditions. No general advice provided here should be taken to replace or in any way contradict advice provided by a qualified, registered/licensed physician and/or psychotherapist who has the opportunity to meet with the patient, take a history, possibly examine the patient, review medical and/or mental health records, and provide specific advice and/or treatment based on their experience diagnosing and treating that condition or range of conditions.

    The general advice and information provided in this format is for informational purposes only and cannot serve as a way to screen for, identify, or diagnose depression, anxiety, or other psychological conditions. If you feel you may be suffering from any of these conditions please contact a licensed mental health practitioner for an in-person consultation.

    Questions may be edited for brevity and/or readability.

    JanAtheCPA, Grateful17 and Laudisco like this.
  3. riv44

    riv44 Well known member

    My own physical therapist --who is working with me on TMS and activity--told me I was addicted to self-massaging my trapezius muscle and to stop. I transferred the need to self-soothe by pressing the acupuncture points (see Schubiner) many times a day. She also told me that when I feel like I can't do something at the gym, do it anyway. This is fabulous for a physical therapist.
    P.S. now I have to stop pressing the acupunture points constantly.
    JanAtheCPA likes this.
  4. JanAtheCPA

    JanAtheCPA Beloved Grand Eagle

    LOL, Riv.

    Well, about a year before I discovered Dr. Sarno (and this community) I was convinced by my cranio-sacral doc to stop going to the chiropractor for adjustments. He said I could keep my A-O joint in place by talking to it.

    Constantly going to the chiro was maladaptive behavior (thank you, @Alex Bloom MSW !) which made me feel better in the moment. But I was willing to try something else. The next time my A-O was "out" (and it literally was out of place, my husband could always feel it) , I just kind of gently stroked it - not even using any pressure - and I asked if it would move back into place. The next morning, it was fine. And I never went back to the chiropractor again.

    This success primed me to be ready to learn about TMS a year later.

    So, Riv, maybe your next step can be to replace the "pressure" in acupressure, with some gentle touching on those same pressure points, along with a bit of conversation.

    This was a really great question and answer, thanks to Determined07 and Alex!
  5. Susan1111

    Susan1111 Well known member

    Riv I am new to this site and fairly new to TMS. On a search regarding Necks I came upon this question/your answer. I can relate to your habits of massaging my shoulders, moving my neck around and yes at one point I was busy with acupuncture points. May I ask if you have been able to break the habit and if so how. I found the therapists answer valid for the reason we may do it but vague in how to fix. Thank you for any insight you can give.
  6. riv44

    riv44 Well known member

    I often massage my neck, sorry to say. Other pains are transient, and I am 1000 times better than I was this time last year. I still use Icy-Hot. But my entire outlook is different, and that is the thing I want to emphasize. Massaging my neck is not ruining my life. Spasms come and go, normal aches and pains but not chronic misery. I attribute all of this to a shift in focus brought about by finding Sarno's book.
    JanAtheCPA likes this.
  7. Susan1111

    Susan1111 Well known member

    Thank you for responding. I am thankful for having found Dr Sarno's work and this very helpful community. I am finding my way.
  8. riv44

    riv44 Well known member

    Finding your way is good. There's a lot of support for the SEP but I didn't go that route. Whatever path takes you there is good. There is no right way, I think. I have reflected a lot on TMS through the life span, and it really helps me to revise the past.
    Susan1111 likes this.

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