The Neck. Neck pain is one of the most common Massage Therapy complaints that clients come in to see me for. It's such an amazing, flexible part of the body but when it hurts...OUCH!
Tight neck muscles can lead to pain, tension, headaches, jaw pain, pain in the shoulders, upper back and even the upper chest. There are 26 muscles in the neck that help to stabilize the upper body, allow us to look up and down and from side to side, let us bend our ear towards our shoulder, allow us to swallow and talk, and help to elevate our rib cage when we breathe.
It's important to keep these muscles flexible so you can enjoy their full function and mobility!
Technology and Neck Pain
While the technology we have is amazing, it is probably the worst culprit and what brings Massage Therapy clients in to see me the most.
Straining or holding our neck muscles as we look at computer screens for work throughout the day, or tilting the head down to look at phones and other devices, puts undue stress on our neck muscles unless we take time to care for them. If you're regularly taking breaks from computer screens and your devices throughout your day as well as taking time to counter stretch the neck muscles, you may not be having issues. Unfortunately we can get drawn into the job or the conversation and forget to take those breaks.
This Neck Pain, I Just Woke Up With It
No reason that you can think of as a cause, but when you woke up this morning you experienced severe neck pain. It hurts to move it, it hurts to not move it, your head feels too heavy to hold up... Has this happened to you?
Another reason I see clients for a Neck Massage is because of Torticollis (or Wry Neck), a spasm in the neck muscle. It's likely that your neck has been tense and strained for some time but you may not have been paying attention. While you were sleeping you unknowingly moved into a position where the strain became an intense muscle spasm and because the muscle was already strained and fatigued, it's now yelling at you. Torticollis can be very painful.
How Can I Help Your Neck Pain?
Massage Therapy can help to loosen all of the muscles of the neck, shoulders, upper back and upper chest. Clients often feel some immediate pain relief and notice increased flexibility and mobility.
A form of Massage Therapy, Myofascial Release focuses on encouraging the fascia around the muscles to loosen and release. Through rolling the muscles with the fingers, and gradually massaging in more deeply. The tightness begins to let go. Not usually recommended when the muscle spasm is acute, as it often feels too aggressive and painful.
Gentler than Massage, Craniosacral Therapy will encourage the fascia that surrounds the muscles, ligaments and joints to gradually begin unwinding. As the fascia loosens the muscles have more room to move.
Through specific techniques Spinal Touch encourages good posture throughout the entire body to promote good spinal alignment. (read more about Spinal Touch here)
Hot Moist Heat
Muscles just love hot moist heat. It brings circulation to the area and can often encourage the muscles to relax. Getting into a hot bath to soak your neck and back muscles is the best way to apply this form of therapy. You can also place a damp hand towel in the microwave to heat up and place on the affected areas.
It's important to remember that your neck muscles have probably been under strain for a period of time and they are unlikely to completely loosen with just one treatment.
Let's work together to get them loose through regular therapy, some home self-care and stretches. Once loose we can create a plan to keep them that way!
The colder weather is definitely upon us and the season has quickly changed from Summer to Fall. Did you know that Massage Therapy can help you to easily transition between the seasons? There are so many benefits to receiving an Autumn Massage, here are just a few...
Massage Therapy Helps Relieve Anxiety, Depression and SAD
Back to school, sports, indoor activities, the '9 to 5', family holiday gatherings... all of these happenings are good, but they can leave you feeling overwhelmed and fatigued. Decreasing amounts of sunshine and daylight begin to take a toll on your mind and your spirit. Anxiety and Depression increase and can lead to exhaustion.
Massage Therapy helps to naturally balance your hormones. Lowering the release of cortisol (the stress hormone) while increasing serotonin (a mood stabilizer) and dopamine levels (helps to battle depression and increases clarity and focus).
Your Massage Therapy appointment gives your mind and body a "time out". This is a great opportunity to rejuvenate and re-energize so that you can keep your life on track
Massage Therapy is a Natural Immune System Booster
This time of year we spend more time indoors and often in the close company of others, an optimal scenario for the spread of viruses. Preventative action can help you to stay healthy.
Massage Therapy helps to boost your body's white blood cell activity, which strengthens your immune system. It also helps you to sleep better, which always goes hand to hand with staying healthier.
Get a Better Nights Sleep with Massage
A good nights sleep leads to better health, eases depression and is a time for your body to kick into it's innate self-healing mode. Massage Therapy helps to boost serotonin and melatonin production which are key hormones for regulating your sleep cycle.
Massage as a Stress Buster
When stressed our heart rate and blood pressure increase and muscles become tense and tight. Massage Therapy will help to release your shoulders from your ears, lower your heart rate and decrease blood pressure. In a more relaxed state your stress becomes more manageable.
Reduce Pain and Inflammation with Massage Therapy
Colder weather often brings an increase in muscle and joint pain, especially for those who deal with arthritis. Back to school/study/computer posture places more stress and tension on the muscles of the neck, back and shoulders which can lead to increased headaches, jaw tightness and muscle pain.
A Massage Therapy session increases blood flow to muscles, joints and connective tissues while helping to ease inflammation. Greater blood flow and reduced muscle tension eases stress on joints so that they are able to move more freely and with reduced pain. Massage helps to loosen the strained muscles that can become tense with studying as well as increased computer and desk time. Through releasing muscle tension the body moves into it's better, more natural posture resulting in fewer headaches, joint pains and neck strain.
Massage Therapy is for more than Relaxation
Summer is over and it is back to work and school, and after school activities, and raking leaves, or shoveling snow and ... Feeling overwhelmed and stressed?
A Massage Therapy session can help you to ease through the overwhelm and get you back to feeling energized and de-stressed. Plus ease out the back ache that often accompanies raking and shoveling.
Massage Helps to Relieve Stress
Stress can cause your muscles to tense, your heart to beat faster and your blood pressure to rise. All of these trigger your body's natural “fight-or-flight” response which encourages the release of excess cortisol into your system. Massage therapy helps to counteract these effects while encouraging the release of "feel good" endorphins.
Decrease Anxiety and Depression
Autumn brings ever decreasing amounts of exposure to daylight due to shorter days and colder weather that keep us indoors. Less daylight affects the release of both serotonin (mood stabilizing) and dopamine (helps to uplift and to focus) in the body. If you’ve ever experienced anxiety or depression, you know what a toll they can take. Massage Therapy helps to boost your mood and relieve anxiety while encouraging your body to release serotonin and dopamine.
Massage Can Help to Boost Immunity
With the beginning of school days and more time spent indoors it can be difficult to get away from the viruses that are floating about the office, home and school. Massage Therapy has a preventative effect through helping to boost the immune system.
Sleep Better After a Massage
A good night's sleep is vital to our overall health. Without good sleep we get cranky and depressed and our immune system experiences added strain. Did you know that massage therapy has been shown to improve sleep for almost everyone? The increased release in serotonin from a massage makes melatonin production easier and that is the hormone that regulates the sleep cycle.
Reduce Back and Neck Pain
As a therapist I see more clients with back and neck pain at this time of year (save final exams in June). Students are spending more time bent over the books or working on computer, the eight hour workday can leave you with neck and back pain from sitting or being on computer. Chronic strain on the muscles of the neck and upper back can create tension and pain. Massage Therapy can loosen the muscles, improve your posture and increase blood flow,giving your body much needed relief.
Fall Onto my Massage Table this Autumn
Our Body is talking to us ALL the time; it’s our lifelong best friend. It constantly sends us messages about how it’s feeling and through listening to and feeling what it’s telling us, we can make adjustments in what we’re doing to keep it “happy”. With the intention of living a long and happy life with little or no pain, doing all of those things we love to do (like dance well into our 90’s and beyond) it’s worthwhile to take the time to listen to what our body is saying. What it is saying and how it is saying it speaks volumes about some of the adjustments and fine tuning it wants us to make.
Massage Therapy clients are often surprised to discover how the parts of their body are all connected. They often don’t consider that pain in one area of the body may be related to problems in another area. The realization of that connection can often make sense once awareness is created.
Our Spine is one of the key structures in our body, without it we’d be like mushy beanbags on the floor, unable to stand erect and unable to move. This amazing part of us gives protection, support and a base for our muscles and ligaments to attach to so that we have mobility. Honouring the spine’s natural curvatures and giving it the space it needs to move is essential.
It’s important to remember that the spine is just a bony structure and that muscles move bones (not the other way around). Keeping our spine healthy means keeping our muscles strong, stretched and flexible. When we tune into all the ways in which our spine and other bones are able to be moved by those amazing muscles we remove a lot of limitations.
Massage Therapy, Yoga, stretching and strengthening exercises all give our muscles the support they need for us to move freely with flexibility and without pain. Besides good nutrition muscles need oxygen (our breath work) and water (the Brain is 90% water, Muscles are 75%, Bones are 22% and water protects and moisturizes our joints....it’s a key ingredient to keeping us moving!)
In our fast paced way of living we often become unaware of what our body is saying or we suppress (pain killers) or ignore it (gotta get that last thing done) until we have time to listen. Sometimes we become so used to ignoring our body that we don’t notice that we’re moving differently or limiting our movements to avoid the pain they cause...we adjust and limit, adjust and limit and soon don’t realize there are many more ways we could move around if only we were aware.
Taking a few minutes throughout your day, in your normal activities to check in with how your body is feeling will go a long way to make this a natural automatic response and keep you active for many years to come! If you’re not sure book in for a Massage Therapy session and let the therapist help in creating more body awareness.
The two previous blogs helped with protecting and nurturing those hard working, snow shovelling muscles but you do need to think about some Massage care! Here is a special for you for this week!
So you have practiced great body mechanics, or maybe not (see part one here) and the job is complete (for now). Looking after those hard working muscles needs your full attention, now, to avoid becoming stiff and sore or experiencing muscle spasms later.
Nurturing the muscles needs to carry on for a few days and not just the day that you worked them hard. Here are the ideal ways to nurture yours;
1) STRETCH! You may be exhausted but take 15 minutes to STRETCH those muscles after the shoveling workout. Heavy labour and intense exercise causes muscles to bunch and knot which puts an added strain on ligaments, tendons and joints.
Gentle stretching encourages muscles to relax and open. Pay particular attention to stretches for your back, sides, neck, shoulders and arms.
2) SOAK - toss a good dose of epsom salts (1 to 2 cups) into a hot bath and soak for at least 15 minutes. Epsom salts give muscles an extra dose of magnesium which is absorbed quickly through the skin. The magnesium combined with warm moist heat from the water is a perfect combination to relax any tightness in the muscles and put heat into the joints.
3) MASSAGE - as soon as you can book in for a session! So many clients will come in a week or two later because they have "twinged"a muscle and they don't know what they did. The heavy work out from moving snow may not feel sore at the time, however, if muscles are not given a full recovery it leaves them susceptible to a knot or spasm from what may seem like a move that was slight. Massage treats all parts of the muscle and encourages it to recover fully and to rest.
Has this happened to YOU?
You wake up in the morning and can hardly turn your head, severe pain in your neck and perhaps shoulders and you have no idea why. You didn’t do anything differently yesterday, just woke up like this in the morning. And … it hurts!
Wry Neck happens as a result of shifting or turning the head too quickly (which can happen while we’re asleep). The Menisci between the vertebrae or joint surfaces in the neck becomes trapped during the turn and the joint locks. So why doesn’t it happen every night? It may be that you slept with a cool draft on your neck muscles (open window?) or lifted something the day before that created a small muscle spasm which was made worse while turning during the night.
Why write about this? I have clients that come to me with this condition quite often. The pain can be severe and perhaps not just in the neck, but in upper back and shoulders too. Some experience headache as well.
First step is to REST! I probably don’t need to say this because the pain is so severe it is difficult to move anyways, but remember that the muscle needs some time to heal and release the spasm.
While many therapists recommend putting ice on the area, I always recommend to work with what feels best to you. For myself, I find heat works better. So while resting be sure to have an ice or heat pack on the areas.
The next and most important thing is to get yourself in for a massage as soon as possible in order to loosen the spasm. A massage to the back, neck and shoulders often brings immediate relief. Massage for wry neck is wonderful! It loosens up the muscle spasm which encourages the joint to unlock and release the menisci. Sometimes it will take a couple of sessions to ease the spasm.
After the massage continue to “baby” your neck. Keep the area warm, soak in an Epsom salt bath and the next day, very gently, stretch the muscles in and around the area.