|Triggers: Eating, high humidity, stress, overexertion|
|Helpers: Exercise, meditation, low carb diet, massage|
What it feels like
For me this is one of the most prominent symptoms and it has become worse over the last couple of years. It feels like my shoulders and neck pulls themselves together on their own until they are a big ball of pain. It makes it very hard to relax or find rest while lying down. The pain is like a constant tightening, so it feels like the whole area is going to implode. Moving my head also hurts.
The pain is dominant 90% of the time and is only relieved temporarily by doing yoga. Because an intense tension in the neck always manifests itself as a forerunner seconds or minutes before an “attack”, I feel that there is a strong connection between the two phenomenons. ( An “attack” is where multiple symptoms like brain fog, tremors, and dizziness all flare up at once.) I, therefore, keep an eye out for the tension building up so I can get physically and mentally ready for the attacks before they hit.
The tension always develops during or after a meal – that is also the time where I have most attacks. Eating even a little can, therefore, make my neck hurt more than usual even if the symptoms do not accumulate into a full blow attack.
Other triggers are high humidity, stress, and overexertion, all of which leads to periods of severe exercise intolerance and an inability to relax, and thereby making it harder to battle the symptom.
What helps me
Yoga is the number one thing that helps me to battle this symptom. The only time that I do not feel the pain is after doing yoga poses, but, unfortunately, the effect only last for a couple of hours. I, therefore, find it ideal to do yoga multiple times a day. There are of cause limits to exercising during a workday, and I must also make sure to not overdue it due to the exercise intolerance that also is part of having POTS. At the moment, I find that doing the sun salutation 2-3 times a day and a 20-25 minutes yoga program once a day is the ideal. It may sound like a great burden to do yoga every day, but I find that doing it regularly in small doses is far better than doing it every other day for a longer time.
If you feel the same kind of tension and pain in your neck, and isn’t used to doing exercise like yoga, it is good to know that it may hurt during the exercise. For me it normally hurts for the first 10-15 minutes. It is, therefore, very important to know how to feel the difference between “good” and “bad” pain. Thereby you do not end up exercising through a “bad” pain and ending up with an injury. I have practiced yoga for many years now, and I make sure always to be careful while learning new poses and listening to my body. If you do not feel comfortable with exercising while in pain I strongly recommend finding a yoga teacher or getting some help from, for example, a physical therapist.
I find that meditating with the purpose of dealing with the pain and working on relaxing the area can be very helpful. I especially use this technique if I’m in a situation where I cannot do yoga at a time where the symptom has become intolerable.
Since eating is one of the things that triggers the symptom for me, it has been good to change to a low carb diet because it normally makes the overall postprandial POTS symptoms less severe. Unfortunately, the diet alone does not help anymore, since almost every meal starts a chain reaction of symptoms even though I eat a restricted diet.
Finally, I find that massage and physical therapy can help relieve the tension and the pain. Even doing self-massage has some effect. The effect does not last very long for me. Sometimes the symptom is back right after the massage is over, or it returns in half an hours time. I, therefore, prefer to do yoga, but I know that there are other POTS patients who have had good experiences with the treatment.