Neck Pain Management

I originally published this post about ways to manage neck pain 4 years ago, but I thought it might be a good idea to re-post it with a few updates.

It would be great if just getting massage would keep your neck pain away, but I’m not going to pretend that massage alone is some kind of magical cure.  Managing chronic pain of any kind takes diligence. As a sufferer of chronic neck pain, I’d like to tell you some of the things that I do to manage the pain. These are not prescriptions, just some ideas of things that you might try to help yourself at home between massage appointments (and I don’t get any compensation for any products I recommend).

Move EVERY day. If you’ve been following my blog at all, you’ve heard it before. If you missed it, click here.

Stretch. Especially the chest muscles. If you’ve been to my office for neck pain, chances are good that I’ve shown you the doorway stretch.


Doorway stretch to help with neck pain!

Arm position for "Doorway"

Arm position for “Doorway” stretch to help with neck pain.

If not, give me a call, and we’ll arrange something! ***Update – check out my page of stretches here. ***

For those of you who might like to venture into yoga, but don’t want to take a class, I highly recommend DVDs by Sara Ivanhoe. Her technique is very gentle and she usually has modifications for all different levels.

***Update – I also have found some wonderful sessions focused on neck pain with Cole Chance. Look for her on youtube.***

Along with the stretches, consider doing some strengthening exercises for the upper back and neck. Ask your favorite personal trainer for specific suggestions.

Create a goal to REALLY focus on better posture. Find ways to remind yourself. Put a note by your computer! Sit up Straight for mousepadAsk a buddy to give you a little nudge when they see you slouching. And be patient with yourself…bad habits are hard to break, but you can do it! ***Update – there’s an app for that! Or more accurately, lots of apps. If you love your technology, one of these might be for you! ***

Heat packs. Or alternating hot and cold packs. Great for circulation! (I am a person who hates cold, but sometimes using a little cold pack can reduce the inflammation just enough to ease neck pain.)

Press on the knots. You know how when you have neck pain, you automatically reach over your shoulder and start massaging? It’s because your body instinctively knows where to press. There are tools for the hard to reach places.

Try various shapes and densities of balls…tennis, bouncy rubber balls, lacrosse balls. I recommend sticking the ball in a long sock and draping the sock over the shoulder to reach spots on the upper back. Then stand against a wall to apply the pressure.

You might like a Backnobber or a Theracane, if a ball is not your cup of tea.  If you’d like to see how it works, just ask next time you are at my office!

Remember: don’t press so hard that it’s a “bad” kind of hurt. Don’t bruise yourself. Be gentle. Whenever you have a kink in your shoulder, be sure to work gently on the spot a few times a day for about a minute at a time. (A kink in your shoulder almost always is connected with neck pain).

TENS machines. I don’t even think you need a prescription for these any more, and I believe the over-the-counter ones are reasonably priced. Be sure to ask your doctor or physical therapist how to use these units.

Traction machines. I think you probably have to go to a physical therapist to get one of these. All I know is that my physical therapist made it possible for me to get one paid for by my insurance company, so it never hurts to ask. ***Update – Good news! The price for these have come down quite a lot since I got mine. And it appears that some sites (like this one: ) do not require a prescription. If I’m incorrect about that, let me know, I’ll look around more, because I have a client who was able to obtain one without a prescription. In any event, it still might be a good idea to see if your insurance company would help with the cost. Also, consult your doctor.***

Consider using a different pillow. One that supports your neck. A cervical neck pillow. Or occasionally sleep without any pillow at all. I find that sometimes my neck just needs to rest in a different position.

For all you ladies and gents out there that are carrying a heavy bag on your shoulder, consider lightening up that load, or at least alternating shoulders once in a while. At the very least, try carrying it with the strap crossing over your chest instead of putting all of the weight on one shoulder. Switch it up.

Last, but certainly not least…get yourself on a regular (at least monthly) massage schedule. You knew that was coming…it wouldn’t be a proper massage therapy site without a plug for regular massage, now would it? Remember, I specialize in massage for neck pain. Text me for an appointment! 315-464-0809

Stretch and Strengthen

Just a little tip:

Did you know
that when you s t r e t c h one muscle,
that the muscles that perform the opposite action
are strengthened?
Just think about that for a minute and let it sink in.

Now, think about how that might help you in your health goals.

It is not within the scope of practice for a NYS Licensed Massage Therapist to recommend strengthening exercises, but that does not mean that we don’t want you to do them! So when your therapist recommends a certain stretch for you, keep in mind that part of our goal may be to strengthen the opposite (antagonist) muscle. We are striving for a healthy balance of the muscles.

Receiving a massage? How to make it even better!

You can make your massage better! Yes, you can! I know some of you have fabulous massage therapists and wouldn’t believe that your massage could possibly BE any better, but I’m here to let you know about some simple things that could improve your massage.

1.   Plan to arrive a few minutes early, particularly if it is your first appointment and paperwork needs to be filled out.

2.   Call if you are going to be late, and understand that the therapist may not be able to give you a full session.

3.   Silence your phone. While it may not bother your therapist if the phone rings during your massage, it WILL take away from your ability to relax. If you feel anxious about silencing your phone, please keep it near you (perhaps on the table), so that the distraction is minimal.

4.   Put the electronic gadgets away. Remember, this is YOUR time to relax. Your massage will be better if you can disengage from gadgets that don’t let your mind rest.

5.   Avoid awkward situations. Whatever items of clothing that you choose to leave on, please be sure that they don’t interfere with access to the muscles that will be getting massaged. If you wear boxer shorts, please roll the legs up enough so that the thigh muscles can be accessed. If you leave your bra on, please unhook it, or be prepared that the quality of the back massage will suffer. If you want to leave your socks on, please discuss with your therapist if you still want foot massage.

6.   Stay hydrated. Your muscles will be much more receptive to the benefits of massage if they are not dehydrated.

7.   Breathe! It helps you to relax!

8.   Perhaps, above all these other suggestions, the most beneficial thing you can do to make your massage the best it can be, is to communicate your preferences with the therapist. Don’t worry that you will be insulting the therapist. As long as you remain matter-of-fact with your words, no reasonable therapist is going to become upset with you. A good therapist will use your constructive feedback to improve the work that they do.