I have a pain in the neck, a weakness in the once strong cervical area. I would like to think that my head has become heavy with wisdom and knowledge, that my brain has grown to weigh more than the average 3-pound brain.

But I suspect the usual culprits: arthritis, deteriorating discs, weak core and back muscles, and too much curving down toward books and electronic devices, too many hours hunched over notebooks and computers. In other words: spinal abuse.

Gravity will wear you down. The only effective deterrent against the slow, down-pull of gravity is exercise — building muscle — or moving to the moon, which I don’t want to do, at present.

I want a quick fix. No need to tell me I should have exercised and practiced correct posture years ago. It is too late for preventative measures. It is time for acute measures.

At first I tried different bed pillows and new sleeping positions. And then I began to prop my book on a pile of sofa cushions in my lap, so that I didn’t have to strain my neck to see the print. And then I tried lying flat on the floor with my knees over a pillow and a rolled up towel under my neck. That last position felt really good, but no one in my household was willing to put a plate of cut-up food near my mouth, so I eventually got up.

Next, I consulted my sister who used to be a hairdresser, and therefore knows all kinds of miracle cures. I fully expected her to recommend CBD oil and heat treatments, but she said I shouldn’t mess around with my neck, that I should immediately make an appointment with her favorite neurosurgeon.

Ignoring the fact that her favorite neurosurgeon is two hours from me, I called and made an appointment with the experienced, successful doctor. But I only got to see his physician assistant. I love PAs, but this one was adamant and unsympathetic. I asked directly for a cervical collar to help support my head. I asked for traction. I asked if they had one of those machines that allows one to hang upside down. She explained that they don’t believe in cervical collars, and that traction was not for me. She ignored my question about the upside-down machine.

She did an x-ray and gave me a prescription for physical therapy, which is about as far away from a quick fix as one can get. We’re talking months of retraining my slumpy shoulders — months of learning to hold in my stomach and align my body. I will bet some loyal reader a Big Chic white meat snack pack that at some point I will be manipulating weights.

And there will be the expectation that I continue these lifestyle changes, these daily exercises, into my 80s and beyond, if I am lucky.

One of my goals in life has always been to melt like a pudding into a rocking chair. To stop trying so hard to change the world, to stop trying so hard to curl my hair. To wear house dresses and tennis shoes. To wear clashing bright colors with glee. To passively enjoy my Golden Years.

Alas, there is no enjoyment in pain. There is no relaxing when parts of the body require patching and replacing and shoring up.

And I am among the lucky ones. I have made it this far on this tragic, dangerous life journey with only a few days in casts, boots, hospitals and wheelchairs. No organ failures, no internal system breakdowns. Except for occasional vertigo, absent-mindedness and sleep deprivation, my mind works well. Fate has blessed me — so far.

I have cousins and friends who are grimly fighting debilitating diseases, some who are hoping to get out of intensive care soon, some who are praying to return home from rehab facilities with all their limbs intact. I have a dear cousin who doesn’t recognize me. I have friends whose bodies are struggling to survive what are intended as life-saving treatments, who take daily painful shots to stay alive, who need medical aid and the support of friends.

What is a little pain in the neck?

I can still hold a hand and wipe a brow. I can brush hair and help a shaky hand apply a little lipstick. I can still listen to a worried, confused warble, or an angry rant. I can even adjust a bedpan and change sheets. And I am willing to do all of these things.

But I am sure I could do it all better with a cervical collar to support my heavy head. Maybe I’ll check for a used one on eBay or Amazon.

Just until I rebuild my back and neck and shoulder muscles. Just for a year or two.

Cheryl Hilderbrand is a Jackson writer and educator. Email her at


Managing Editor

Michael Davis has been the editor of the Jackson Progress-Argus since 2010. He previously worked as an editor and reporter for the Henry Daily Herald and Clayton News-Daily.