There’s nothing like the saying ‘a pain in the neck’, is there? It’s such a clear, definitive describer of when something’s afflicting us – figuratively speaking. But what about when you’re actually experiencing a pain in the neck? Well, there’s nothing like one of those either. Hence why the saying caught on in and became popular in the first place.
Neck pain is troublesome and commonplace, unfortunately, occurring both suddenly (acute) or constantly (chronic); unsurprisingly, if left untreated, acute neck pain can lead to chronic pain and, thus, just as bad, toa loss of range of motion. Often occurring in combination with back pain, the symptoms of neck pain tend to be similar, usually including stiffness, muscle discomfort, limitation of movement, spasm and headaches.
Neck pain is usually caused by either a sprain (injury to the spine’s ligaments) or a strain (injury to spinal muscles). A sprain’s likely to occur after a neck injury that’s involved serious stretching or even tearing of neck tissues (such as whiplash or an injury sustained when playing contact sport), while as train’s likely to occur owing to postural or repetitive stress (i.e. overuse), which can be due to poor posture when sleeping, sitting or standing. Both neck sprains and strains can result in chronic pain when soft tissue becomes inflamed and swells.
There are other causes too, such as pinched nerves and even dental disorders, rotator cuff injuries and structural or degenerative spinal disorders (i.e. a herniated disc or cervical spondylosis, aka osteoarthritis) – however, it’s a common misconception that neck pain is at all related to abnormal cervical spine curvature.
Chronic neck pain is, of course, to be taken very seriously. If you’ve been suffering for some time then you should certainly see a doctor, whom will likely want to perform a medical examination – and even an x-ray or a magnetic resonance imaging(MRI) scan – in order to rule out a disorder of a structural or physiological spinal nature. Moreover, if in addition to neck pain, you begin to experience dizziness, weakness or a fever, then you’re strongly advised to seek medical attention immediately.
Relief through massage
Rest assured, though, that given the commonality of neck pain, medical treatment to combat its symptoms and continued causation is well established. Indeed, one non-invasive treatment is massage therapy; it’s regarded as highly effective especially if a sufferer is still experiencing pain long after incurring neck injury. An alternative to prescription medication and, thus, an increasingly popular proposition with GPs and medical practitioners, massage therapy for neck pain usually involves hands-on manipulation of the muscles and other soft tissues in order to successfully relieve muscle tension and reduce stress in the neck area.
As you might be aware, massage therapy can be highly efficacious when applied to almost any part of the body, but it’s an ideal treatment for the neck area because it’s particularly therapeutic for the musculoskeletal, circulatory, lymphatic and nervous systems – all of which play a role in the make-up of the neck. It’s advised that, should you seek massage to alleviate your suffering and treat your neck disorder, then the most effective therapy will combine these different massage types:
- Swedish Massage – a variety of therapeutic techniques that help release tension with applied pressure to the surface muscles; may help reduce emotional stress and tension
- deep tissue massage – can be performed with Swedish massage to release tension from deeper muscles and connective tissues; the applied pressure’s often intense, focused on releasing adhesions (‘knots’) or scar tissue causing the pain
- trigger point therapy –steady pressure to release neck muscle spasms and promote blood flow to aid healing; specific muscle points or knots (often the source of referred neck pain while actually located in the shoulder)are found and released
- Shiatsu – a Japanese massage where the practitioner uses their body weight to gradually and effectively press acupressure points.
The severity of the injury you’ve incurred (whether it be a strain, a sprain or something else) will determine the length of your recovery, in addition to your age and general health and, of course, whether you’ve had prior neck injuries. To achieve successful, lasting relief then, several sessions of massage therapy will be necessary; in which case, it’s best to seek out a reputable and respected professional therapist for this treatment – such as you would find at the likes of the Spa at the Montcalm – as they can both best recommend the frequency of massage sessions needed and perform them as effectively as possible.
Neck pain prevention
Another old adage, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, is obviously also applicable when it comes to neck pain. Here are a few suggestions to try and prevent the onset of neck pain in the first place – and prevent symptoms getting worse:
- good posture – when sitting, standing and walking try always to maintain a natural aligned spinal position; if you work sitting at a desk, try to take breaks and stretch your neck muscles and avoid positions in bed that will abnormally flex your neck during sleep
- Regular exercise and neck-strengthening exercises – regular exercise encourages better posture, while a therapist should be able to recommend specific stretching and strengthening exercises; yoga too is effective at stretching and strengthening the body
- Seek a certified massage therapist– yes, as noted, there’s many massage techniques that you can benefit from with neck disorders, but an experienced professional therapist is best suited to advise you on which ones to go for and, of course, to perform them too.