About : Neck Pain

     The neck is a pretty interesting piece of anatomy. The way that it can bend and rotate drastically increases the visual and auditory information we are able to take in from our environment. This is the upside; the downside is that we have a narrow, flexible structure that is supporting and stabilizing the very heavy weight of the head (about 11 pounds on average). Due to the fact that our necks are always moving but also always stabilizing, the muscles of the neck are prone to developing tension and trigger points. Most neck pain is the result of poor posture/ positioning or trauma/ injury.

     Posture or positioning problems of the neck may result from improper posture at work (particularly desk or computer work), poor sleeping position, or carrying something on one side (such as a heavy bag or a child). Most of these scenarios lead to an increase in the normal curvature of the upper back and a forward position of the head. This puts strain on the muscles, increases the pressure on the joints and increases the wear on the intervertebral discs of the neck. All of these things can lead to pain that is localized in the neck or it may refer to the head, torso or arms.

     Neck pain may also result from a physical trauma, either to the neck directly or where the forces of the trauma are transferred through the neck. One of the most common examples of this type of trauma is a whiplash injury. A whiplash injury is the result of a rapid acceleration-deceleration of the head and neck. Whiplash injuries are often acquired through motor vehicle accidents (especially rear-impact collisions) or contact sports. The symptoms of a whiplash injury often include dizziness, headache, nausea, numbness or tingling, neck pain and lack of mobility. It is normal for symptoms to appear days, weeks or even months after the initial injury. Muscles on the front and the back of the neck are usually injured or irritated following whiplash.

How Can Massage Therapy Help?

     Massage therapy can improve neck pain by decreasing tension in the muscles and reducing pressure and irritation on the joints of the cervical spine. Massage treatment can help relieve the symptoms of neck pain by reducing trigger points in muscles, decreasing sympathetic nervous system firing (decreasing the body’s stress response) and gently mobilizing the joints of the spine. Often, a series of treatments is required to achieve long-term relief.

     If neck pain is the result of poor posture or positioning of the neck, massage therapy treatment will include direct hands-on techniques as well and homecare (stretching, strengthening exercises, etc.) and education. Massage therapy can help to provide relief, but postural and/ or lifestyle changes are often required to eliminate the source of the problem. Regular massage therapy treatment is a great way to help maintain a healthy posture and help avoid episodes of pain related to chronic neck tension.

 

     Neck pain that results from a physical trauma often requires several treatments as there are many areas involved. Many of the muscles in the back as well as the head and jaw are also affected by whiplash injuries. Both the front and back of the neck are affected by the acceleration-deceleration forces of the injury, so it is important to treat both of these areas as well as the surrounding structures. Tension in the muscles on the front of the neck can result in pain, a tight feeling in the throat, discomfort when taking a deep breath and dizziness. Treatment that only focuses on the back or sides of the neck will not be able to address these issues. 

 

     Please note that you should see a medical doctor if you are experiencing neck pain or stiffness accompanied by a fever or in the acute stage following an injury.

Please email me (emily.burns.rmt@gmail.com) if you have any questions regarding massage therapy treatment for neck pain!

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