Just about everyone has experienced some kind of neck pain at one point or another — whether from sleeping in an awkward position, turning too quickly, or having poor posture, there are a myriad of things that can lead to discomfort.
Luckily, a neck massage can usually do the trick to ease tension and soothe soreness in this oh-so-vulnerable area — but which methods work best? We’ll tell you.
But First — What Exactly Is Neck Pain?
Simply put, neck pain refers to any time your neck hurts. It’s a pretty common problem, with about one in three people experiencing it each year, women more often than men.
That said, seeing as we ask quite a bit from our necks — twist, turn, bend, and hold our heads which weigh roughly ten pounds — it’s really not surprising how common neck pain is. Of course, this doesn’t make it any better, but if you’ve aches and pains in this area, at least you know you’re in good company!
What Are the Symptoms of Neck Pain?
Neck pain can feel different from person to person, ranging in both severity and duration. Oftentimes, it’s acute and only lasts for a few days or weeks — this is the best case scenario. Other times, neck pain can become chronic (worst case scenario) and last longer than three months.
Some common symptoms of neck pain may include:
- A persistent ache
- Burning or stabbing discomfort
- Discomfort that gets worse with certain movements
- Muscle tightness or spasms
- Sharp, throbbing discomfort
- Radiating numbness
- Head and neck tension
Note: If you have aches and pains that interfere with work or other daily activities, contact your primary healthcare provider. In rare cases, a sore neck can be a sign of a medical emergency. See a doctor immediately if your pain is associated with chills, fever, or bowel/bladder control loss.
What Causes Neck Pain?
So, what causes neck pain? Well, there are quite a few culprits that could be responsible for your sore neck, but more often than not, neck pain can happen because:
#1: You Pinched a Nerve
Your neck — aka cervical spine — comprises seven bones (vertebrae) stacked on top of each other. Between these all-important bones are itty-bitty cushions referred to as cervical discs.
These discs have soft centers inside harder exteriors (think: jelly donut), and sometimes you can get what’s called a herniated disc (aka ruptured disk or slipped disk).
When this happens, some of that soft stuff pushes through a tear in the exterior, and as a result, the disc becomes less cushiony, which can compress nerves leaving the spine.
When you have a compressed nerve in your neck, it’s not uncommon to feel pain as well as numbness and tingling that may radiate into your shoulder and arm on one side.
#2: You Strained a Muscle in Your Neck
Neck strain happens when the muscles or tendons in the neck are overstretched or torn. This can result from an injury — such as a car or sports-related accident — or everyday stresses like poor posture and sleep habits.
If you strained a muscle in your neck, you might find that the pain worsens with movement. It may also be associated with headaches and muscle spasms.
#3: You Have Whiplash
Whiplash happens when your head suddenly moves in one direction — forwards, backward, or sideways — and then back again.
As a result of a car accident, this type of injury can usually strain your muscles and cause tendons and ligaments in the neck to stretch or tear, resulting in major discomfort and stiffness. Ouch!
How Can Massage Therapy Help?
Now that we’ve covered the basics of neck pain, let’s chat about massage therapy, shall we?
Whether you’re experiencing tightness and stiffness or aches and pains, a massage is an excellent way to find relief from discomfort — especially in the neck. There are many types of massage to choose from, but when dealing with a sore neck, consider the following methods:
Method #1: Swedish Massage
A Swedish massage includes kneading, as well as long, steady movements that run along the direction of blood flow to the heart. It’s the most common technique used in the United States and can work wonders to rid tension throughout the entire body — especially in the neck.
During a session, a massage therapist may light a few aromatherapy candles to promote relaxation before working on your sore spots.
Method #2: Deep Tissue Massage
When it comes to neck pain, getting a deep tissue massage is probably not the first thing that comes to mind — but it should be. This popular technique is successful in releasing built-up tension and chronic pain. It uses deeper pressure than a traditional massage to reach all layers of the muscles and connective tissues.
That said, the neck is a susceptible area, so it’s of the utmost importance to seek out an experienced deep tissue masseuse to ensure that you avoid any added discomfort that can come from incorrectly applied techniques.
Method #3: Trigger Point Massage
Most of us have trigger points on our bodies — in terms of massage, these are the kinked areas that are particularly sore, knotted, and tense. These trigger points — whether in the neck, upper back, or lower back — are particularly sensitive and can even produce aches when touched.
A trigger point massage works to unknot these uncomfortable kinks in order to stretch and ease the tight muscles. Following a session, you may feel incredibly sore, but this should subside (along with your neck aches) within a few days.
If a trigger point massage leaves you feeling unbearably sore, try taking a warm bath using our Therapeutic Bath Salts to help calm your mind and ease tension. For an extra boost of relief, apply our Magnesium Lotion to any tender spots after your bath.
Method #4: Self Massage
Don’t have time to get a professional massage or see a chiropractor? Don’t worry; there are many self-massage techniques that you can try to soothe and relax your tense neck muscles from the comfort of your own home.
For example, you can use a foam roller, tennis ball, or golf ball to work out some of the trigger points that are causing you stress in your neck. You can also enlist the help of a loved one to help rub out the kinks.
Pregnant? Rather than getting on the floor to lay on a foam roller, we recommend 8 Sheep Organics’ Sleepy Body Lotion. This mom-approved and pregnancy-safe formula is made with organic ingredients like natural magnesium to ease aches for a deeper and more restful slumber.
Neck pain is an extremely common occurrence that most people will experience at least once in their lifetime. It can result from several things, such as poor posture, awkward sleep habits, a pinched nerve, and injury. Other common causes include arthritis, degenerative disc disease, fibromyalgia, and spinal stenosis.
Fortunately for neck pain sufferers, massage therapy can usually do the trick to help ease muscle aches and tension.
8 Sheep Organic’s Sleepy Body Lotion is also a great way to combat pain — especially when it interferes with your sleep. Simply apply two to three teaspoons of lotion onto areas of discomfort after a warm, relaxing shower for a calm night of rest.