April 16, 2024
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April 16, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

This week’s column is about stiff necks. Nothing to do with the fact that many of us slept in the sukkah last week.

Stiff necks are a real pain in the neck. (Ouch.) And they always strike without warning. They just sneak up behind you—often while you’re sleeping—and before you can turn around, they’re upon you! And then you can’t turn around.

I recently read that at any given point, one out of 20 people has a stiff neck. So if you’re ever in a room with a whole bunch of people, look around. If you can’t, it’s you.

The worst part of having a stiff neck is that you can’t move your head. Even if you want to do something as simple as look at someone, you have to turn your whole body, and you think you’re being all casual about it, and then he says, “Do you have a stiff neck?”

And this is not to mention how stiff necks can really affect your performance at your job, especially if you’re a bus driver, an air traffic controller, an aerobics instructor, a violinist or anyone who swims for a living. Also, sometimes you want to silently tell someone, “No,” but you can’t turn your head, so you have to do it with your entire body from the waist up. And he’s going to say, “Why are you dancing?”

I think if you’re a mother, a stiff neck isn’t as big of a deal, because you have eyes in the back of your head. My wife does. I try to sneak food from the kitchen when she’s in the dining room, and she asks, “What are you noshing on?”

“How do you know I’m noshing on anything?”

“I have eyes in the back of my head.”

“If you have eyes in the back of your head, how do you not see what I’m noshing?”

So apparently my wife has eyes in the back of her head, but they need glasses.

Sure, there are a lot of advice articles out there, but it’s not easy to tell which ones know what they’re talking about. You only have one neck.

For example, one article I read said (and I am not making this up), “TIP #6—Massage. STEP 1: Grasp your neck with your thumb on one side and your fingers on the other.”

Wait. Which two sides are we talking about? Care to be more specific? Am I strangling myself here?

“STEP 2: Knead your neck by gently squeezing for 1-2 minutes.”


I didn’t put a lot of stock in that article anyway, because it was called, “9 Home Remedies for a Stiff Neck,” and #8 was to call a chiropractor.

Plus a lot of the advice these articles give seems to be contradictory. For example, a bunch of them said to “Apply heat and cold.” Won’t they cancel each other out? Can I just apply nothing?

And public opinion doesn’t help that much either. Whenever people hear that you have a stiff neck, they’re very quick to point out that you probably slept wrong. So I guess the best idea is to go back to bed and try again until you get it right. You never know.

The problem is that when you’re sleeping, you’re unconscious, so you have no idea that you’re sleeping wrong until you get up and you’re like, “Was that wrong? I was like that for six hours!”

I have no idea if I’m sleeping wrong. I could be sleeping wrong every night. No one really ever taught me how to sleep. I went to school for like 20 years, and as far as I can tell, there’s no class for that. In fact, if you fall asleep in class, the teacher gets all judgy about it. He never says, “Oh, you’re doing it wrong; let me show you.” There should be official sleeping classes. What are you paying all that dorm money for? Just so your kid can take naps during lunch?

And anyway, if you take a nap during class, it’s on your arm, and you never wake up from that with a stiff neck anyway. At worst you wake up with a dead arm and a deep red impression of your shirt button.

So I was never really taught how to sleep. I kind of just figured it out on my own. Halacha does say it’s a good idea to sleep on your side, but aside from that it’s pretty vague. It doesn’t really say anything about back alignment, or how many pillows to use, except when it comes to Tisha B’Av and you need to sleep on one fewer pillow because you’ve been sitting on the other one all night. Unshowered.

So here are some actual tips, taken from articles that I have no way of verifying that they know what they’re talking about. But to be fair, you never have a way of verifying that I know what I’m talking about.

Decrease your stress levels. Of course, it’s hard to decrease stress when you can’t say no to anything.

Don’t fall asleep sitting up. Except on Friday nights.

Apply cold first. If you don’t have an ice pack, you can use a bag of frozen cholent beans. Next, apply heat. If you have no heating pad, use a bag of cholent. Take a hot shower. Then have someone flush the toilet so it’s cold. Repeat. The stress will not help, though.

Sleep correctly. Many articles that have a larger photography budget than this one have pictures of how your head and neck and back should be aligned when you sleep, but the pictures are always taken from behind, so you honestly have no idea whether you’re aligned properly. So when you lie down, you need someone to stand behind you with a magic marker.

Mordechai Schmutter is a freelance writer and a humor columnist for Hamodia and other magazines. He also has six books out and does stand-up comedy. You can contact him at [email protected].

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