Neck Pain Massage Therapy: Designing Effective Lasting Treatments
David Weintraub, LMT and owner of Bodyworks DW, writes about neck pain and the positive effects of massage therapy to overcome it.
Why effective neck pain massage therapy shouldn't focus exclusively on your neck
Neck pain is a very common issue. Our phones and devices are constantly pulling our attention. Our head follows our eyes putting us in a "head forward" position. This pulls the muscles in the back of your neck into a constant stretch. And makes them work extra hard to fight the weight of your head. Muscles hate being stretched and working hard. So they yell at you with achy pain. Thankfully, neck pain massage in New York and can be an effective and lasting treatment...when done properly.
Does this sound like you?
a) Sitting at a desk staring at your screen for 40+ hours a week
b) Looking down at your phone multiple times a day
c) Reading your tablet in bed while propping your head up on a pillow
All of these habits tighten your anterior neck muscles (the ones in front). While simultaneously pulling on the posterior neck muscles (the ones in back).
My massage therapist should work mostly where the pain is, right?
Actually, no. That might feel good at the time. But it won't last more that a few hours to a few days if you are lucky.
The next day you may even feel worse. Like you were hit with a bag of hammers. Working only on what hurts won't do anything to relieve pain for the long term. Truly effective neck pain massage has to address what's causing your head to move forward in the first place. And the cause is usually not your neck!
For most common neck pain, the following three areas need to be released together at the same time. This will move your head into a more balanced position on top of the ribcage. When the head is balanced in gravity the muscles in the back of your neck and upper back get to relax. And stop yelling at you with achy pain.
The Three Main Areas to work on in a first session
1) Hip Flexor Muscles (any muscle that helps bring your knee towards your chest...there are more than 12!)
Your hip flexor muscles are tight from sitting all day. This pulls the top of your pelvis forward into an anterior tilt (forward tilt). Basically you can think of it as a small but significant fold forward in your hips. This forward fold pulls you entire upper body forward. If nothing else changed, you would feel stooped over.
2) The Ribcage Position
The position of your ribcage in relation to your pelvis is vitally important to relieving both back and neck pain. With an anteriorly tilted pelvis, the ribcage tilts backwards to compensate. The muscles in the mid back will work extra hard. Basically you will be doing a backbend all day long. You'll have to in order to keep the ribs balanced on top of your forward tilted pelvis. In addition to putting your head and neck in a poor position, this also puts a lot of strain on the low back.
3) The Pectoral & Anterior Neck Muscles
With the ribcage doing a backbend to balance the pelvis, your head needs to move forward to compensate. If it didn't, you'd be looking at the ceiling. As you head pulls forward it overstretches your posterior neck and upper shoulder muscles. Yes, we know that's where it hurts 🙂 However, working back there is not going to make a long term impact. The back of your neck is already over stretched. Releasing it into length even more (which is what massage does to muscles) is not going to help any. To really provide relief, the front side anterior neck muscles need to be released in order to give the back ones some slack.
If your massage therapist only releases the front neck muscles and not the mid back muscles, your neck will feel a lot better. But you'll be stuck looking up at the ceiling. And if they open up the angle of your neck and your ribcage, but not the hip angle, you'll be left stooping over! So, to really release your neck muscles in a way that sticks, we need to make sure all three areas are in better balance. This will allow your head position to float back on top of your pelvis and ribs naturally, without effort. Finally your neck muscles get to rest!
For most neck pain and upper back pain clients, we sequence all three areas in a neck pain massage session. We work on releasing hip flexor muscles, then mid back muscles, then front of neck muscles. By the time we work on those back of the neck muscles, they are already super relaxed and ready for deeper work. You'll leave feeling your neck light and moveable in ways that you had forgotten exist 🙂
What Next? That felt great and lasted weeks! But now that familiar ache is starting to come back...
The above 3 step session is a basic outline of what would happen in a first session. It's going to provide a lot more relief than a standard massage session and it's going to last a lot longer than you are used to. In order to get that relief to last long term we recommend a series of sessions to address some or all of the following (depending on the client):
- Any old ankle injuries your have that change the angle and shape of the foot: these usually cause hip flexor tightness
- Your adductor muscles on the inner thigh that may be stuck together due to sports injuries: these also cause hip flexor tightness
- The position of your shoulder blades on your ribcage: these are often "rolled forward" pulling on the muscles in the back of your neck in a similar way to the front neck muscles
- Your side body fascia: if the ribcage isn't inflating and deflating while breathing, both the shoulder and neck muscles get "stuck"
- Your jaw muscles - tension from trips to the dentist or daily unrelieved stress tightens these causing headaches and also neck and shoulder pain
As each of these related causes for neck pain is worked on, it will become easier and easier to balance your head on top of your ribcage. Eventually, usually after 4-7 sessions of neck pain massage, pain becomes a thing of the past.
Effective neck pain massage therapy addresses all of the forces pulling on your head
We've developed truly effective neck pain massage therapy that provides long term relief at Bodyworks DW.
First, we'll address your neck pain effectively by releasing each of the three main contributing factors in the same session. You will feel immediate relief at the end of the first session. And you won't feel sore or beat up the next day.
Next, to have a long term impact, we will follow up the first session with 3-6 custom designed sessions. These sessions will work on more detailed areas in cumulative layers. Each massage allows us to go deeper into the stuck front neck muscles and bring your head into better balance. With your head balanced on top of your spine all of the muscles work less. Less work = less pain!
We offer neck pain massage in Midtown and the Financial District in New York City. Would you like to schedule a fantastic neck pain massage with one of the best massage therapists this city has to offer? Contact Bodyworks DW today or click on the button to book online at our neck pain massage midtown or neck pain massage fidi studios!