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neck painWhen your neck is in pain, nothing seems to work right. Turning your head is a task which forces you to turn your whole body making you feel like a robot. Just holding your head upright is a painful ordeal. Even laying down to bed causes you to brace your body to keep your neck from excruciating pain.

Massage therapy can be a great help to many types of neck pain. By helping to decrease tension, helping to heal muscle strain, and increasing circulation that helps to bring fresh nutrients to your muscles.

Whether you have pain from muscle strain, bulging discs, or pinched nerves massage can help!

The main types of neck pain can be related to soft tissue dysfunction and structural disorders.

Soft Tissue Disorders

The most common neck pain you may feel is in the back of the neck and into the shoulder blades. The muscles of the neck commonly work as anti-gravity muscles and it is easy for them to develop overwork and strain patterns. As they work to hold your neck and head in postures such as looking down to read a book or phone, looking at a computer screen with the head forward, or carrying a bag on the shoulder.

Many of your neck muscles also attach in the shoulder blade and collar bone and have a close relationship to the shoulder. Any sports or exercise that use the shoulder can also help to cause strain and overwork the muscles of the neck.

Pain from neck muscles can cause the neck to feel stiff, limit movement in turning the neck, cause a pinching of the joints as you turn or move your neck backward, cause headaches, and even send pain down into the shoulder, arm and hands.

Soft tissue disorders include:

  • Muscle strain
  • Trigger Points
  • Nerve entrapment
  • Ligament sprain
Scalene trpt

The scalenes attatch to the 2nd vertebrae of the neck down to the 7th vertebrae and go to the 1st two ribs. They help in breathing and are stressed during forward head postures (such as slouching at a computer.) The nerves and blood vessels that supply the arm pass through the scalenes and can entrap the nerves and blood vessels. Trigger points in these muscles can be widespread and be felt in the chest, arm, and in back of the shoulder blade.

lev scap trpt

The levator scapulae helps turn the neck to the right, is stressed when bags are placed on the shoulder, and when the head is forward of the shoulders. This muscle can make a pinching sensation when you turn your head or move your neck backward, and can make your neck feel stiff.








trapezius trpt

The trapezius is also stressed with the head forward and holding the head up, can make the neck feel stiff and tight.

splenius capitis trpt

The splenius capitis is also stressed while holding the head and neck up while the head is forward. As this muscle attaches on the vertebrae it cause joint dysfunction to the vertebrae it attatches to.














Structural Disorders

Structural disorders are problems with the joint and can affect the nerves in the area. These are common structural problems in the neck:

  • Bulging or herniated discs
  • Facet dysfunction
  • Arthritis

Disc problems, pinched nerves, and arthritis can very much be helped with massage therapy. Massage can be essential in the healing process and can be used with other treatments such as physical therapy and chiropractic.

When a joint is injured there will be a reflexive spasming of the muscles in an effort to protect the joint from further injury.  When a muscle is in spasm this means the muscles are working harder. When a muscle works it produces cellular waste which is irritating to the tissue and surrounding nerves.

Muscle spasm will also place more compression on the bones and discs and will narrow the space that the spinal nerves exit. This often results in more intense pain, stiffness,  and a slower healing process.

Massage therapy with the intent of increasing the circulation to muscles around the joints can help relieve stiffness, pain, and speed the healing process of bulging discs, pinched nerves, and arthritis.

Important factors to consider are the level of degeneration. In mild to moderate cases massage often will be the treatment that really helps in resolving pain from these conditions. While in other cases it may not resolve them altogether but may play an important role in managing the condition.

Massage Therapy for Neck Pain

Massage for neck pain is very helpful and can be used with other treatments like physical therapy, chiropractic, and other medical treatments. It can also be very helpful when you have found you have not had much success with medications such as anti-inflammatories.  

Always talk to your doctor when you have pain and are looking to use massage for a specific condition. You can even have your doctor and massage therapist communicate so you are sure to have the best possible outcome.

Using massage therapy to address the soft tissues can make the difference of suffering with chronic and acute neck pain for long periods of time or having the neck pain just be a minor incident.


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 Matthew Snow is a Licensed Massage Therapist in Cos Cob, CT. If you would like to schedule or make an appointment call (203) 936-6379 or email