What causes neck pain?
With all the time we spend sitting at our desks, lugging around heavy bags and avoiding postural exercises, it's no wonder so many of us have neck pain. Other less common ways of injuring your neck might include trauma (such as with an athletic injury), muscle strain, or your pain may originate from a degenerative disease such as arthritis. Rarely, neck pain may also be caused by bone or joint abnormality or even a tumour.
Basically, neck pain can occur anywhere in your neck, from the bottom of your head down to your shoulders. It can also potentially be related to shoulder pain or upper back pain. You may feel soreness, stiffness, and when nerves are involved also potentially some numbness, tingling, or weakness in your arms or hands.
The muscles involved in neck pain usually include your trapezius muscle for the most part, but may also involve your scalenes (medial and/or anterior), and your sternocleidomastoid muscle. Other smaller muscles may also be involved, but usually only secondarily.
What does a massage therapist do for neck pain?
After ruling out a serious injury by consulting with your physician, seeking out a massage with a registered massage therapist may be one of the best things that you can do for your neck pain. Massage can not only help improve circulation to your neck, but can also help to decrease tension, and improve nerve conduction and lymph drainage. Together, these factors help to reduce the scar tissue and inflammation that together can impinge on your nerves and cause pain, tension and general discomfort. Plus, tight, untreated tissue can pull on other tissues, causing other imbalances and can potentially cause you more widespread issues. In addition, massage therapy will encourage your stress hormones (such as cortisol) to decrease, and cause your 'feel good' neurotransmitters (such as serotonin) to increase, leaving you with an eventual feeling of deep relaxation and happiness.
To treat your aching neck, a registered massage therapist may use their fingertips, knuckles, hands, and even their elbows or forearms if appropriate, to give you a deep enough massage. You may be asked to breathe deeply during the course of the treatment, as some of the work done to break up scar tissue may feel uncomfortable. Try to remember not to eat too much before your treatment, and to drink plenty of water afterwords. Your massage treatment will surely help with your neck pain, so be sure to also follow any advice regarding exercise, stretching, Epsom salt baths and so on.
By Richard Lobbenberg, BSc BHSc DAc
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These links may also be helpful:
Massage Therapy for Upper Back Pain