In this post you will learn:
- What are the causes of neck and back pain?
- How does massage help reduce neck pain and stiffness?
- Swedish or Deep Tissue – which massage is better for chronic neck pain?
- What are the things to be careful about when getting a massage?
What are the Causes of Pain in the Neck and Back?
Causes for Neck Pain
Medical experts and healthcare professionals list lifestyle habits like bad posture and sleeping habits as the chief cause of neck pain. They also cite repetitive motion – which further causes tendinitis and bursitis – as another chief cause.
Causes for Back Pain
Lower back pain can be very painful and can last for days. When muscles in the lower back area are torn or injured, the entire area gets inflamed. This leads to spasms, severe pain, and even difficulty in moving. Inflammation in the upper back muscles can arise due to lack of nutrition (hence slowed down tissue repair)
While many experts recommend massage therapy to reduce neck, shoulder, and back pain, it is a complementary therapy. For massage therapy to be completely effective, it has to be combined with other active measures like correcting your posture, exercising and practicing yoga.
How Does Massage Help Reduce Pain and Stiffness?
The benefits of massage are the same for any kind of body pain. These are:
Benefit #1. A massage gives instant relief from the pain!
Try applying light pressure on your neck for a minute and you will notice immediate relief from the pain. A massage is just that: an extended – and methodical – version of applying pressure on the affected area to relieve pain.
Benefit #2. Regular massage therapy improves muscle agility
While it reduces your pain, a massage therapy regime will also make improve the flexibility in the joints, consequently reducing the chances of pulling a muscle and causing further injury. A massage does this by reducing the build-up of lactic acid in the muscles. Lactic acid is produced as a by-product of muscle metabolism, which if left unchecked, leads to muscle soreness and tightness.
Benefit #3. Reduces migraine and tension headaches
While there is no study that proves the direct relation between neck massages and reduction in migraine attacks, neck massages do improve blood circulation in areas around the head, like the neck and shoulders. It also loosens up tender muscles in that area, reducing pressure, and improving the blood flow to the head, reducing the occurrence of headaches.
The best benefit of using regular neck massages to treat migraines is that they don’t have any side-effects. Over time you may notice a decrease in the frequency and intensity of the headaches.
Benefit #4. Relieves stress
Besides relieving one from physical symptoms of stress like soreness and tension in the muscles, a massage helps calm the mind and relax the mood. It’s a well-quoted fact that massage releases endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine hormones that together counter the effects of cortisol, also called the ‘stress hormone’.
The Best Types of Massage Therapy for Neck Pain
There are chiefly two:
Swedish massage for regular neck and back pain
Generally prescribed to the first-time massage takers, a Swedish oil massage involves simple long strokes interspersed with rhythmic tapping, friction rubbing, and shaking to relieve tension in the entire neck and shoulder area.
Deep Tissue massage for chronic pain
In a Deep Tissue Massage, the therapist applies intense pressure through the fingers to specific points in the areas deep within layers of skin, where the muscles are tight.
The key difference between the two is this: a Swedish is a medium-pressure massage that focuses on a larger area. Deep Tissue is a high-pressure massage that focuses on specific pain points. Depending on how chronic your neck pain, choose between either.
For best results, get a 60-hour session Massage at Home session twice a month.
What Do You Need to be Careful About When Getting a Massage?
Here are some things you need to be mindful about when getting a neck massage:
- Avoid taking from neck massages family and friends i.e. non-experts. If done the wrong way, it can lead to further tightening of the muscles and even spasms.
- Inform your therapist if you’re on blood thinners or similar medication that will cause you to bruise easily.
- Be very thorough about the intensity and frequency of neck pain, as well as questions about lifestyle. Your honest and accurate answers will help your therapist choose the right techniques to help you.
Another thing to be mindful of during a neck massage is that the pain will first heighten before reducing. For more information, read our post on what NOT to do after a massage.