The vast majority of the clients I see will request that I spend some time working on the neck. Tightness in the neck can lead to headaches or just result in stiffness and limited range of motion. Turning your head to look to the side can become a challenge. With the stresses and strains we put on our bodies through our daily actions, the muscles of the neck often feel tight, sore and compromised.
Sitting in front of computers, looking down constantly on mobile phones and tablets or just generally poor posture will often result in dysfunction of the neck.
My main mantra with neck massage is that doing anything more than gentle stretches to the neck but, for the most part, according to my clients my neck work is effective (& most importantly, safe).
For example, students are frequently taught a stretch whereby they bring the neck into strong flexion by placing their left hand on right shoulder, right hand on left shoulder with the forearms crossed behind the clients head. They then bring their arms forward to place the clients head into strong flexion. Personally, I strongly dislike this stretch as most therapists take it way too far and have heard no end of comments from clients that their necks have been sore for days after, often associated with headaches. Also for many people this stretch is unnecessary as the posterior neck muscles may be weak and over-stretched anyway when coupled with a forward head posture. Yet, students continue to be taught this technique as it is easy to do (& in fairness can feel beneficial immediately after so long as the head has not been flexed too much).
How to massage a “crick in the neck” (myofascial release for neck stiffness)
Levator scapula either overlooked or overworked. When neck is stiff then significant proportion of times then levator scapula is implicated.
Head forward posture – when you bring head forward then levator scapula tightens. Chronic head forward posture leads to chronic hypertonicity in levator scapula. Client education can be important to reduce frequency of neck cricks.
Effectiveness of a treatment is based on telling nervous system that it no longer needs to be in spasm.
10.00 two hand petrissage of trapezius. Attempt to “soften fascia”. Spread fascia with flat knuckles – get client to roll neck if possible – so long as they are in a comfortable range of motion. Fascial traction with palm of other hand.
13.15 To work levator. R lev scap. L hand depressing superior angle of scapula – R hand onto transverse processes. Tissue may melt – keep holding for a few breathes and then move on. Avoid prominent lymph node in area. Work up to C1 effectively with pin and stretch.
17.00 Hold traps and get client to shake head as though saying no.
Retest with client rotating head although make sure they don’t go too far.
Make sure that client knows not to try and stretch too much. A gentle fascial stretch – hands behind back, depress shoulders and rock head side-to-side without moving head too far. If they can barely feel it then they are doing it right.