I now realize that much of this pain is due to bad habits of poor posture that have been built up over many years. In response to bad posture, and stress, muscles tend to contract involuntarily and tighten. The tightened muscles squeeze blood vessels and reduce circulation. The result? Headaches, muscle spasms, cortisol-induced hypertension ... and even nausea and vomiting.
Further, once severe pain manifests itself more often than not the result is more pain as a result of the workings and dynamics of what is known as the pain cycle.
All too many of us lead sedentary lives and have sedentary jobs. Prolonged sitting, and inactivity, makes muscles and joints feel tight, stiff and tense. Further, unexercised muscles grow lax and lazy and lose strength. However, the real laziness relates, not to our muscles and bodies generally, but to our lack of self-awareness and alertness. That is the real problem.
Mindful stretching consists of various gentle stretching procedures - not exercises - done very slowly and mindfully, that is, with a moment to moment level of awareness of breathing, posture, and the various sensations that arise in your body, mind and consciousness ... from one moment to the next. The procedures consist of various actions and motions that are mindfully slow and relaxed.
In more recent years I underwent surgical procedures to my cervical spine including facet joint injections and percutaneous facet joint denervation. Again, no relief from pain.
Today, Mindfulness is the only natural modality that gives me any real assistance in managing my condition. Why? Because when I practise Mindfulness I become more self-aware of what is happening in my body, mind and consciousness. Over time, I have learned to overcome poor habits of breathing and posture ... simply by being aware of my bad habits in that regard and by making appropriate changes before things turn ugly.
Sit upright and relaxed in an office-type chair with your feet placed squarely and evenly on the floor. Rest your hands on your upper legs or directly over your knees. Gently let your head drop forward until your chin gently touches your chest. Let your shoulders be relaxed and still, but not rigid. Notice any tightness, rigidity or spasm in your neck or shoulders. Don't fight against it or try to get rid of it. Let it be.
Keep your mouth closed (unless you have to breathe through your mouth) but allow a small gap between your teeth as any undue tesnion in the muscles of the jaw will pull the head off balance or otherwise affect its smooth, easy movement throughout this procedure.
Once you have completed your circle to the right, reverse the movement and now slowly and as effortlessly as possible move your head around to the left in a large, easy circle.
Again, easy does it, and let your head move at a comfortable pace without any strain.
Go slow with, and throughout, this procedure, and be careful with your range of motion (which can be affected by factors such as age, osteoarthritis, degenerative disc disease, etc). Stop if you experience any pain or unusual discomfort. If the procedure hurts, don't do it.
Now inhale, while at the same time and straightening your arms and shrugging your shoulders high toward your ears. Maintain this position for some 3-5 seconds, being aware of and alert to what should be no more than moderate tension in the cervical region. Now exhale in one long, easy sigh, letting your shoulders sag, your head drop forward, and your arms go relaxed and loose. Feel the tension dissipating.
With each procedure, be mindful of whatever arises from moment to moment. You cannot fail at Mindfulness if you remain mindfully aware of whatever happens. Oh, yes, when doing each procedure there should be no holding or stopping of the breath (except, if you really must, with the shoulder shrugs, when holding the shrugs for the 3-5 second period). Breathe normally (for you) in rhythm with your movements, and if you want to go deeper into a stretch don't force it but breathe and relax gently into it.
Perhaps the most importat thing of all is this ... apply Mindfulness each moment of the day, from moment to moment. Do not allow yourself to, for example, sit in a "bad" position in front of the computer for hours, or even minutes, on end without becoming aware of what you are doing to yourself. Mindfulness means being self-aware and alert to what is happening to your body. Observe, notice, and take corrective action before pain sets in.
(This blog sets out a simple form of mindfulness sitting meditation.)