“All I did was reach for the towel out of the shower and then I couldn’t move my head! How did this happen?!” This is something I hear everyday. It doesn’t always happen in the shower, but as we age some small motion done each day becomes a big problem. A person finds themselves “stuck” in a position, unable to turn their head, unable to twist, unable to reach or lift.
A massage will get you unstuck, but it’s important to learn (or be reminded) about the complexity of your body and the small things you can do so that the massage is for enjoyment, not necessity. I consider my massage a necessity for stress management. You know, so I don’t scream at my family for not putting the dishes in the dishwasher! However, most folks who come into the office for the first time come in because they are in pain and need a massage to get out of it. Like I said, we want you coming in happy and leaving happier. Also, we want you to be aware of your body and working with it as it changes is vital.
Why Neck Pain?
There are 12 major muscles in the neck responsible for the stability and movement of the head. The interaction of those muscles are what allow movement. Because our head can move so freely, these muscles can get bound up with one another. It is both the beauty and the curse of our agility. We go into and out of alignment everyday and we sometimes get stuck.
As we age the muscles atrophy, lose flexibility, and lose elasticity. Pair this with years of what I call micro training, which are the postures we maintain all day without our awareness that fix the muscles on a cellular level. Now, add in that our bodies absorb and move nutrients and vitamins at a slower rate as we age, which means muscles are not being fed as well as they were and the result is getting stuck, feeling aches and pains and fatigue.
At this point you probably want to stop reading because you are depressed by the picture I just painted, but don’t worry. There are plenty of things you can do to train the body to deal with the changes of age. There are plenty of things you can do to avoid that neck pain.
Tips For Neck Pain
Massage Tip #1 Massage your own neck each morning when you get up or each night before bed or both. Make claw hands with your fingers roll your fingers transversely over the erector muscles (the ones that feel like ropes) of the neck. If you gently tilt your head back, you can into the tissue a little deeper. Use the finger tips to make circles at the base of the skull (called the occipital ridge) and move up into the head. Massage your face and jaw. It is amazing how much stress is tied up in the face and jaw that is directly linked to the tension of the neck.
Massage Tip #2 Massage your own shoulders. All the muscles in the neck have some attachment in the shoulder area. Grasp where the neck and the shoulders meet with the palms of your hands and pull. Remember “rug burns” from when you were a kid. Do that, only gently, to this area. It feels great. Next hold one elbow with your hand. Make a fist with the hand being held and punch the opposite shoulder. Now switch sides. This is part of a practice called Do-in (pronounced doe – een) from Japan. It literally translates to hit oneself. Who knew hitting yourself would feel so good?
Massage Tip #3 Stretch and breathe. Shrug your shoulders. Roll your shoulders forward and back. Remember, all the muscles in the neck have some attachment in or around the shoulder joint and scapula. Moving the shoulders relieves the tension in the neck. Turn the head left and right, up and down, and side (ear to shoulder) to side to the point of comfort. The more you gently move the neck, the easier it becomes.
Massage Tip #4 Make sure you are hydrated each day. Dehydration allows for the tissue to fray and reduces elasticity. In addition, be sure you are eating 7-9 servings of vegetables and fruits each day. A serving is only a quarter cup. It is doable. There are key vitamins and nutrients in vegetables and fruits that your body cannot get anywhere else.
Taking care of your body is not difficult and shouldn’t be an enormous task that takes up your mind space. If you set yourself up with some good habits, your body will stay in good shape as you age. The trick is keeping up with those habits and when you fall off the wagon, you get back on.