blog post #398
I have a worrisome neck pain. First, I discovered that submerging myself strangely provided complete relief — as long as I stayed down, anyway. Then, trying to stay submerged, I discovered that it’s actually very difficult to breathe through a narrow tube while submerged — an odd detour. Finally, I’m back on track with a bigger tube — about 1cm diameter, double the bore of the first tube — and I have an update.
I was not hopeful. Things have changed with my neck.
While I was taking my sweet time getting around to buying a bigger tube, I was also experimenting more with my neck movements. I nailed down exactly which movements cause pain. I can cause the pain with precision and total consistency: pull chin back, and tip chin down. That really hurts. Every. Single. Time. I will call it “the chin method” for the rest of this article.
No other movement hurts, except full neck flexion. The chin method hurts about twice as much as full neck flexion, and it doesn’t take much. The chin method is kind of brutal. I have to be careful with it.
With such hair-trigger sensitivity, I began to doubt that the weird pain-relieving effect of the water was going to be any match for the mighty chin method! It was just too much pain, too predictable and intense. Surely it would hurt above water and below? My earlier results must have been an illusion — perhaps being underwater had never really relieved the pain. Even though I had tested as carefully as I could the first time, something about being underwater must have simply limited my movements to the painless ones (as opposed to somehow making painful movements painless).
I could have tested this before getting a bigger breathing tube, but I decide to wait and do the best possible test.
I was eager to do this test! I got in the pool as quick as I could. Standing neck deep in the water, breathing through the tube already, trying to make everything as much like the underwwater test as possible — everything but being underwater — I re-tested the chin method several times: tilt—ow! … tilt—ow! … tilt—ow! Yep, that sure does still hurt. And I felt more certain than ever that it would still hurt when I sank beneath the surface. It’s an easy movement to perform.
I sank beneath the surface.
I spent a little time getting comfortable with the slightly tricky tube breathing. The larger bore was certainly a big improvement — but it was still a bit of a struggle to draw breath. Air wants to leave, and you have to fight a little to keep it from leaving. It took a little practice to get breathing smoothly, but I more or less had it down after a couple minutes. It was finally time for the test.
I surfaced and re-checked the chin method one final time. Tilt—ow! Yep, all systems go.
I submerged my whole head, took three deep breaths, and tried it.
Tilt … nothing.
Tilt … nothing.
Tilt … nothing.
I tested this for several minutes and determined to my satisfaction that I am roughly 95% pain-free underwater. If I apply the chin method vigorously, I can just kinda barely sorta feel a ghostly echo of the pain. It barely counts.
Stranger yet, remarkably little submersion is required. Basically, the pain fades rapidly as the water level passes my shoulders, and the chin method is nearly painless by the time the water is at my ears. This suggests that the effect is unlikely to be mechanical and related to head floatation (because the head isn’t floating yet). It gives some more support to the notion that the effect is neurological: the water “reassures” my brain, and there is a pre-conscious certainty that I’m safe in the water.
I also had a reduction of pain for several minutes after emerging — the glimmerings of an actual therapeutic effect. It was too brief to get excited about. But it was certainly enough to inspire me to spend a fair amount of time underwater with Mr. Breathing Tube.
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