What are the main causes of neck pain?
A stiff neck can refer to anything from a dull, constant ache, to a sharp, stabbing pain when moving the head from side to side. Millions of people around the world experience neck pain every day, due to:
- Sports injuries and pulled muscles
- Poor posture from desk-based work
- Motor accidents (whiplash)
- Acute or chronic disc injuries
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Odd sleep positioning
Whether you woke up with it this morning, or have been living with it for years, massage may be able to support you in addressing your neck pain.
What type of massage treatments target neck pain?
Depending on the type of treatment you choose, massage works by:
- Boosting blood flow (containing oxygen and valuable nutrients).
- Draining lactic acid (the main cause of muscle stiffness after exercise)
- Releasing tension (by loosening the surrounding soft tissue)
If your massage is from an Eastern tradition (such as Thai), it may be underpinned by a spiritual philosophy related to unblocking energy channels in the body. You don’t have to understand this in order to gain practical outcomes from your treatment, as the physiological benefits have also been well demonstrated.
Most types of massage will spend some time focusing on the neck area, but if it’s your first time you might consider starting out with a Swedish Massage. This treatment uses a combination of long, sweeping strokes and warming motions to release areas of tension throughout the body.
If you know that you want something a bit more intense, consider a Deep Tissue Massage. This increased pressure treatment spends more time moving through the whole musculoskeletal system, to ensure that your neck pain isn’t being caused by referred tightness in your back, or even buttocks.
Stretches for relieving neck pain
If you can’t arrange a massage appointment right now, but still need some relief, there are a few easy stretches that you can try:
- Forward stretch: Sitting up straight, interlace your fingers and place your hands flat on the back of your head. Drop your chin straight down to your chest and allow the weight of your arms to lengthen out the back of your neck.
- Side stretch: Look directly forward and, without changing your gaze, drop your right ear to your right shoulder. Reach your right hand up and gently rest it on top of your head, adding a little weight. Repeat on the other side.
- Chin pull: Sitting up straight, imagine a string has been tied to each of your ears and is being pulled straight back from behind. You should feel yourself making a double chin. Again, this will lengthen the muscles at the back of the neck.
What are the benefits of neck massage?
Massage is a complementary therapy that may result in some of the following outcomes:
- Relief from tight muscles
- Improvement in pain and soreness
- Speeds up recovery following injury
- Helps correct poor posture
- Improve sleep quality
- Promote relaxation
- Boost mood and reduce anxiety
You should always talk to your doctor before beginning a course of treatment, as certain types of massage may not be appropriate for those who are pregnant or have specific illnesses.