Friday, March 29, 2013

A Pain in the Neck - Literally

There are phrases in the English language that would make a foreigner, new to our shores, furrow his brow in confusion. For instance:  He’s a pain in the neck!

 I once worked for a professor, in my early years as a secretary before I taught elementary school and way before I found fitness as a career. This particular man was truly a pain in the neck. He would call me into his office, by intercom, and ask me to wash out his sherry glasses. Yes! Wash them out. Well, that was 1970 and I hadn’t yet found my feet in the feminist world. I was a nubie, just graduated from college, and as I walked into the washroom with his crystal stemware I would grumble : “He’s such a pain in the neck. At least he could have offered me a glass.”

Another pain in the neck is the grouchy neighbor.  I’m sure we’ve all had one of these. On my street we had Mrs. Walters. We’d be playing ball and someone would miss the catch. The ball would roll on to Mrs. Walter’s lawn and she’d come flying out screaming at us, “Keep that ball off my grass!”  I swear I remember a broom! Yes, she was a royal pain in the neck!

Aside from annoying people, there are inanimate pains in the neck. Take the computer, for instance. When it crashes, it’s a major pain in the neck and everywhere else. And when your email is hacked, that’s another PAIN! But so is actually working on the computer, laptop, tablet, any one of these devices. Too much time on the device and you can get a pain in the neck, literally. A royal one. And royal is a great word here – It’s actually an ancestor to the keyboard, whether virtual or real. If we were to make a family tree for devices using a keyboard we might have tablet at the bottom, meaning now. It’s mother and father, grandparents, great grandparents, etc. would be the notebook, laptop, desktop, word processor all the way to the electric typewriter and Smith Corona non- electric. Then somewhere, a great-great grandparent or farther up the family tree would be the big black behemoths known as the Royal and Remington typewriters, the kind Fitzgerald and Hemingway used – if they used one at all. If not, we’d keep going on that family tree till we reached pen and paper. Let’s not go any further, please. I don’t know much about quill pens or rocks and stones. What I’m getting at with all of these ramblings is overuse of any device.

Writing and reading on a computer, tablet, e-reader, what-have-you, for long periods of time can cause pains in the neck. The muscles tighten and you find you have trouble turning your head in either direction. It hurts, but you ignore it. You might apply some heat, but if you keep it on too long it exacerbates the problem, brings more blood to the area causing more inflammation. So then someone tells you to use ice. That helps a little, but you’re still sitting there with your screen in front of you, bent over, furiously typing away or so involved in what you’re reading your head is constantly in a forward tilt, jutting forward, causing more pain in the neck. It might radiate down your arm. Now you’re scared! Okay, okay, enough scenario. Let’s look at some exercises you can easily do to keep the muscles in your neck supple, flexible. Do them while you’re at the computer, while sitting watching television, in the shower with the water beating down on your achy spot – anywhere. Well, maybe not while driving. But at a red light, it’s ok.

Below is an exercise  for you to try – to incorporate in your daily routine.  Performing this exercise will increase the range of motion in your neck.

Starting position: Sit up. Engage your abdominals (just pull them in gently) Relax your shoulders

Drop you right ear to your right shoulder, hold for 2 counts, return to starting position.  Repeat 10x  Then do opposite side.


Follow this video for a wonderful stretch for your neck



This being the Literary Leotard, I feel compelled to bring in a bit of literature to this topic. There’s a scene in my novel, Flourish, where Liz, the protagonist, just might get a pain in her neck. It’s harvest time. She’s in the vineyard picking grapes, but the vineyard is on a hillside and Liz is short.  She’s got to reach up high over- head. If she does that too often she’ll definitely strain those precious muscles. But that’s the least of her problem. Here’s the excerpt from Chapter One.

Liz moved on to the next row, knelt down under the trellis of vines, pulled the red bandana off her forehead and mopped the sweat from her neck and chest. Then, shaded by the umbrella created by the cordon, she got back to work. Each cordon had approximately ten clusters of grapes that hung from five- inch shoots running across the wire. Liz reached up high to get her pointy-tipped clippers under one of the clusters in just the right spot to snip it off. Maybe planting the vineyard on this hillside was a mistake. I’m only five feet four. She let out a big sigh. But then, I thought Dick would be here.

Liz stretched her arms upward again, clasped another bunch of grapes and drew it to her. There were peck marks on the fruit. “Oh, damn! I should have inspected these earlier.” The birds nibbled that bunch and made it easy for the bees to suck out all the nectar. She crawled under the wire to check the clumps on the other side, hoping that birds, mildew or fungus hadn’t gotten to them.

You can read all of Chapter One on my website Find out more about Dick, the guy she thought would be there to help with the harvest and why he isn’t. Dick is Liz’s pain in the neck – figuratively and literally.  


1 comment:

  1. I love, love, love the first chapter. I want to read more. I wish I was a neighbour of Liz, helping to harvest the grapes