Looking After Your Neck
Hello and welcome to this week’s blog, Looking After Your Neck. The issues that can arise with it and how you could go about helping it yourself at home, until sports massage is available again.
Your neck is home to 26 muscles, all with their own jobs, as well as supporting jobs, to keep your head well balanced, as well as aiding healthy neck, jaw, and head movement.
As you can imagine, with so many muscles to look after, Sports Massage for your neck can be incredibly beneficial and its one of the massages that feels the best.
If you’ve ever experienced neck discomfort, then you will understand why massage feels so great, however there are other issues that occur in the neck which you should know about, and if something rings a bell for you, go and get it checked out.
Issues in Your Neck
Degenerative Disc Disease – deterioration of a cervical vertebral disc can lead to greater chance of disc herniation and often creates a radiating pain in your neck
Neck Strain – otherwise known as a pulled muscle, is actually a small to large tear of some of the fibres of a neck muscle or tendon, which will take time to heal.
Cervical Spondylosis – a generalised term for age related wear and tear on your neck bones and soft tissues, leading to discomfort and other conditions.
Osteoarthritis – the protective cartilage of your bones wears down and causes discomfort and stiffness.
Spinal Stenosis – is a narrowing of the canal containing the spinal cord and nerves, commonly caused by bony spurs and can lead to several other conditions.
Poor Posture – the number one cause of most neck issues, is poor posture. Posture is different for everyone, and contrary to popular belief, does not necessarily need correcting in everyone.
Whiplash – a sudden jerk of the neck, usually caused by car crashes but can happen in falls and other accidents, and interestingly, on amusement park rides. Your muscles and ligaments are extended beyond their normal range of motion and can take several weeks to recover.
Herniated Disc – when a cervical disc herniates and presses upon surrounding structures, including nerves. Discomfort can be felt as far away as your hands because of the nerves involved.
Cervical Radiculopathy – Otherwise known as a pinched nerve, or nerve irritation, often because of degenerative disc disease, whiplash or other traumatic injury, or spondylosis. It can often cause a feeling of burning or tingling in the arms and hands.
Meningitis – included here because of the common symptom of neck stiffness and is accompanied by several other symptoms, such as rash, cold hands, aversion to light, vomiting, confusion and muscle pain. If you suspect meningitis in yourself or someone else, please stop reading this and dial 111 for immediate advice from the NHS.
Fibromyalgia – characterised by widespread aches and discomfort, sports massage can help soften the feelings associated with a fibromyalgia flare up as well as ease tense muscles from a recent flare up.
Polymyalgia Rheumatica – is a condition causing stiffness and discomfort around the shoulders, neck, and hips. It can sometimes resolve by itself, and sometimes needs other interventions, such as medications.
Self Help for Your Neck
While sports massage is not an option at the moment, you need to take care of your own neck to prevent a build up of tension, leading to headaches and other issues.
Neck stretches and strengthening are very good activities to aid the overall care of your neck, and I advise many people to introduce some neck strengthening exercise if they are particularly sensitive to discomfort occurring there.
Before strengthening though, you need to release tension from your neck and allow your muscles to be working at their full capacity.
Sitting down, place your right hand under your bottom, then stretch your neck in the opposite direction. That is your left ear closing the gap toward your left shoulder. Your hand under your bottom prevents your right shoulder from rising and lessening the effect of the stretch. Do this both sides, for about ten seconds and then repeat two to three times.
You can change the angle of the stretch and muscles targeted by tilting your head in a slightly different direction if you wish.
See what feels good, and if it hurts at any point, stop.
Next, lay on the floor and interlock your fingers of your hands. You have created a cradle with your hands. Move this cradle to under your head, so that your head is on your fingers and your thumbs are pointing down your neck. Now use your thumbs to self-massage your neck muscles either side of your spine. Feels good, right? Laying down allows the neck to relax sufficiently to allow the thumbs to massage. Do for as long as you need.
Strengthening your neck takes place while laying down, do this after your mini neck massage, or when you are lying in bed. While on your back, no pillow or support, raise your head to look at your toes and hold for as long as comfortable and count the seconds while you do this. Repeat two more times up to the number of seconds you counted to the first time.
Repeat this exercise while laying on your right side and your left side, but keep your head aligned and you are pointing your ear to your ankles this time.
The idea is not to force your head beyond where is comfortable in any of these exercises, but to challenge it just slightly without causing strain. Do these exercises with care.
When it becomes easy at the original number you counted to, increase by another two or three counts/seconds.
Motorcycle riders have naturally stronger necks because of the extra weight they carry in their helmets. Weightlifters often do too, from the strain the neck takes during many exercises. If you exercise regularly and do not often suffer with neck discomfort, then you needn’t worry about specific neck strengthening exercises.
A new phenomenon, as the newspapers and other media would have you believe, Text Neck is believed to be specifically from looking down at smart phones all day long and causing stiffness and discomfort in the neck. It can also lead to semi-permanent posture change. Realistically though, people have always looked down at something. Any work involving the hands, from bread making to reading a newspaper or book in your lap, to sewing to writing on a laptop such as I am right now, can cause an excessive and prolonged bend at the neck. It is more to do with what is happening with the rest of the body that causes the traditional ‘text neck’, in that there is poor posture in the sitting or standing position, while completing our activity, and the excessive nature of the activity. Straighten your neck and use your eyes more to look down.
Prevent and solve possible Text Neck by alternating your activities and taking regular breaks that include upper body movement – rotating your shoulders and neck, stretching your arms above your head and general all over movement to get blood flow moving to keep your muscles happy.
Thank you for spending your time reading this week’s blog, Looking After Your Neck
I do hope that you have found some of the tips I have shared useful and are able to help your own neck during massage lockdown. Head over to my Facebook page every day this week to see a visual of the neck cradle as well as some other useful information about neck tension relief.
Please get in touch if you need to, I hope to see you on the other side, soon,