You know you’re getting old when getting out of bed each morning involves taking inventory of all your aches and pains.

First, let me say that I am incredibly grateful that I don’t have arthritis. No stiff knees or hips. No aching joints or throbbing fingers.

Considering both my parents were afflicted with it, I’m extremely blessed to be arthritis-free — at least so far.

But lately I’ve found I have something nearly as bothersome — a chronic stiff neck.

Of course, having a stiff neck is nothing new for me, but in the past I’d sometimes wake up with one and it would work itself out by noon. No big deal.

I’m prone to getting them because I sometimes sleep curled up in a ball, especially in cold weather. Crunching my head down under the covers all night can  result in some mean neck and shoulder aches in the morning.

When I was younger, I’d walk around a bit, stretch out my neck and let the hot water beat on it in the shower,  Before I knew it, the stiffness was gone, or at least down to a dull ache.

Over the last three weeks, however, it’s been a totally different story.

Usually I’d wake up feeling fine — until it came time to pick my head up off the pillow. Then I’d sometimes get a shooting pain down the side of my neck, across the top of my shoulder and down into my shoulder blade.

Trying to compensate for a stiff neck is no picnic, either. Finding a comfortable sitting position at work is an ordeal, and just when I think I have that solved, I find myself having to reach for the phone or sort through some files.

The worst thing about a stiff neck, though, is that the soreness soon spreads to other areas.

In trying to spare my neck the aggravation of moving the wrong direction, my shoulder muscles automatically tense. Then I find myself with back spasms because those muscles are working overtime to compensate. Before I know it, I’m an uncomfortable mess.

The other day I was hurting so badly that I considered going to the minor emergency clinic to get a shot or a pill of some sort.

My wife told me I just needed to get a massage.

She’s constantly getting neck and shoulder aches from spending long hours at her office computer, and she’s seen a massage therapist twice in the last month.

That may be one solution, but I think I need to figure out a way to sleep better. It could be something as simple as buying an airplane pillow or elevating my head more.

Last year, one of my co-workers work up with a stiff neck that was so severe he couldn’t move his head at all. Those muscles were totally locked up.

His fiance had to drive him to the urgent care clinic, where they gave him a muscle relaxant and some medication for the inflammation.

That had to be a frightening situation — and that poor guy is only in his early 30s.

Fortunately, I’ve never had a stiff neck quite that bad before, and I hope I never have to experience it.

If anybody has some good advice on how to prevent and treat chronic stiff neck and shoulder muscles, I’d appreciate any input on the subject.

In the grand scheme of things, a little neck and shoulder stiffness is hardly worth the amount of print I’ve devoted to it here.

In fact, given the serious maladies I could be subjected to at my age, I should consider myself fortunate to have so little to complain about.

Still, when you wake up with that nagging ache day in and day out, it becomes more than just a pain in the neck.

In fact, I have a much lower opinion, if you know what I mean.

Dave Miller is deputy managing editor for opinion of the Killeen Daily Herald and editor of the Harker Heights Herald. Contact him at or 254-501-7543.

Dave Miller is deputy managing editor for opinion for the Killeen Daily Herald and editor of the Harker Heights Herald. Contact him at or 254-501-7543. | 254-501-7543

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