Tips To Ease Neck Pain

Neck pain is common and there’s a variety of things that can cause it. You may have just slept wrong and tried to turn your head a certain way only to feel some pretty sharp pain; then you’re stuck walking around all day barely able to turn to the side. You may have been hunched over at your desk all day, or done some exercise that didn’t quite agree with you. Whatever the cause, it’s no fun. Of course, a massage session here will help, but there are some things you can do in the meantime to ease that pain.

Stretching
Neck pain is frequently the result of tension within the muscles. When the muscles are tight, they bear down on blood vessels, decreasing blood flow to areas, resulting in even more pain, like those nasty tension headaches that can come along for a ride. Stretching can help loosen that tension and improve blood flow, overall decreasing your pain levels. Slowly tilt your head forward, back, and side to side, until you feel a good stretch in each position. Hold it for several seconds and breathe deep. Release and keep moving through the motions and stretching. Listen to your body and find the places where the stretch really seems to be the most effective.

Heat & Cold Therapy
Heat can help to improve blood flow and relax the muscles, while applying cold can decrease inflammation. You can use whatever feels right, but alternating between the two will often help even more. Apply your heating pad for 5 minutes, then a cold pack for 2 or 3 minutes. One round may be all you need for very mild symptoms, but if the pain is persistent, keep alternating between the two for up to 20 minutes, ending with cold to make sure any inflammation is taken care of.

Self-massage
You can use your fingertips, knuckles, self-massage tools like a Thera Cane, or even just a tennis or golf ball; anything that will provide direct pressure into the muscles. Start gently working throughout the neck and shoulders to warm up the tissues, and slowly work into deeper pressure as it feels right. Don’t be afraid of slight discomfort, but stop if you experience any sharp pains.

Get a different pillow
If you’re experiencing neck pain frequently, try switching up your pillow to see if it may be the cause. No one size fits all here. You need to find what works best for your body. And don’t forget that those pillows need fluffed and replaced on a regular basis to keep the proper support.

Of course, you can always come get a massage when you’ve got any sort of pain like this, but I know that’s not always possible and I still want you to feel amazing as much as you can. So, use these tips the next time your neck starts bothering you, and book your next massage to keep you feeling great too!

Massage & Depression

Depression is an all-too-common struggle for people all over the globe. According to the World Health Organization, it’s estimated that 350 million people suffer from depression. While there are many treatment options, one you may not have thought of is massage therapy. Massage can decrease muscle tension and ease some of the daily physical stress you may put on your body, but it can also go beyond just making you feel good.
A study from the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine¹ found that massage decreases the stress hormone cortisol by an average of 31%. There has been a long-standing association between high cortisol or impaired regulation of cortisol levels and anxiety and depression. Decreasing cortisol and aiding the continued regulation of this hormone can potentially ease some of the symptoms of depression.
This same study also concluded that massage increases the levels of two very important feel-good neurotransmitters, serotonin and dopamine, by 28% and 31% respectively. Both of these neurotransmitters play an important role in mood regulation.
Along with these measurable changes within the body, there are also benefits that aren’t so measurable. One of the biggest is the mind-body connection that is enhanced when massage therapy becomes a regular part of your self-care routine. When the brain and nervous system can take the time to calm down, receive plenty of oxygen during the deep breathing a massage can induce, and relish in the sensations associated with the massage – the way the pressure feels as the hands move from one muscle group to another; the pull of a good stretch; the release as a muscle finally lets go – all of these stimulate the brain to perceive the sensations of the body differently, and in a more positive way.
Massage therapy also creates a safe space for positive touch. Touch is a necessary part of being the social creatures we are as humans. A lack of touch can actually have very harsh effects on us, physically and emotionally, but many people have experienced touch in a very negative way, and avoid it as much as possible. However, taking 60 or 90 minutes once a week or once a month to allow yourself to receive positive, safe touch that you may otherwise not receive, can help ease those feelings of discomfort, loneliness, and depression. One study² found that massage therapy supported significant improvement of the psychological and physical well-being of sexual abuse survivors.
So while massage may not be a cure for depression, and it’s not a substitute for medications or therapy, it can play a major role as part of a holistic approach to the treatment of depression.
¹ Cortisol decreases and serotonin and dopamine increase following massage therapy.
Field T1, Hernandez-Reif M, Diego M, Schanberg S, Kuhn C.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16162447
² Body-oriented therapy in recovery from child sexual abuse: an efficacy study.
Price C1.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16189948

Headaches and Migraines

One of the most common types of headaches are tension headaches, They occurs when the muscles of the head, face and neck start to tighten. This is why tension headache are often describe as a “pressure-like feeling” at the temples or as tightening bands around the forehead or along the base of the skull. Another type of headache are migraines described as “pounding” or “throbbing” type pain. They occur when the blood vessels that supply the brain and the muscles in the head swell and constrict. Migraine pain increase with physical activity and typically lasts from couple of hours or couple of days. They may associated with other symptoms such as vision problems, extreme sensitivity to light, or nausea.

How can Massage Therapy help with headaches and migraines?

Well, Massage therapy helps to relieve both types of headaches by relaxing tension that is held in the muscles of the head, neck and shoulders. When muscle tension relaxes, there is less pressure on the nerves and blood vessels that supply the muscles. Blood start to circulate, which also relieves pain. Massage therapy not only helps the muscles of the body to relax but also reduces the anxiety and mental stress that can cause headaches. Regular, ongoing massage therapy can also help to prevent headaches by helping to reduce overall stress and the muscle tension that can trigger headache pain and by helping to maintain emotional balance.

Now let’s go over some self-care tips….

  • Drink plenty of water since dehydration can cause or even make the headache worst.
  • Apply a cool cloth or ice pack to your forehead, temples, or back of the neck to ease headache pain.
  • Massage your forehead, temples, and back of the neck to relieve muscle tension.
  • Get plenty of rest.

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