Massage therapy for neck pain and posture

Massage therapy for neck pain


Massage therapy for neck pain is one of the most common treatments RMT’s provide.  Although neck pain is a common ailment, and frequently seen by therapists, it is often not a quick fix, as so many factors can contribute to the cause of the pain.  This article will focus on neck posture and how it can cause pain, and how massage therapy can help.



Posture perfect

Did you know that the average head weighs 11 lbs?!  That’s quite a load for the small, thin neck to carry..  Luckily our body has been designed perfectly to support the cranium with a perfect cervical lordotic curvature, and opposing muscles on the front and back of the neck, to keep it in place.

There are also small joints in between each vertebra, discs, nerves, and ligaments who all play a crucial role in allowing movement and supporting the head and neck.  The neck and head anatomy and biomechanics are very complex, and it would take much more than a simple article to cover them.  In order to fast track this part of the article I have added a simple picture to give you a visual.

The fragile design of the curvature of the neck help decrease the compressive forces caused by the weight of the head and gravity.  This reduces the stress on the discs and joints found in between each vertebrae.  This is important because these structures allow for movement between the vetebrae and create space for the nerves to exit the spine.  

The muscles of the neck are perfectly positioned to help maintain this curvature and couterbalance each other, like guide wires, front and back, so minimal effort is required from them to hold your head up.  Just picture the little houses you used to make out of cards by balancing them perfectly together, then building on top.  If balanced perfectly the base of the house can support many more cards on top.



The Balance is Broken

Even if we were designed perfectly, unfortunately most of us won’t stay that way.  Over the years, repetitive habits and static positions can start altering this perfect balance, and this problem is actually getting worse.  The age of computers, cell phones, lap tops and tablets have created a society of slouchers.

Slouching causes the thoracic spine to curve forward, causing the shoulder, head, and neck to fall forward. This is what we call forward head carriage, or upper cross syndrome.

This position of the head and neck changes EVERYTHING!

Because the curvature of the spine is altered it no longer works to absorb shock and support the weight of the head.  This actually increases the pressure the head exerts on the small neck, up to 42lbs of pressure!  This leads to excessive compression of the joints and disc of the neck, which can lead to degeneration, nerve compression, arthritis and PAIN.

The perfect muscular balance between the front and back of the neck is also altered.  This alteration in balances, causes the muscles to work overtime in order to keep your head up, and eyes level with the horizon.   Being in a constant state of contraction causes the neck muscles to get very tight and painful.  Pain also causes the muscles to tighten even more, and a cycle of pain and tension is developed.  Gradually the neck muscles become less and less flexible, leading to a decrease in neck mobility, and stiffness.  Motion is Lotion, and if you don’t use it, you lose it.  which means the less you move your neck, the worst things get.  As the muscles stiffen around the new altered head and neck position they now brace and hold it in that posture.  making it very difficult for you to fix the forward head posture on your own.



Massage therapy for neck pain

Massage therapy is extremely effective in breaking the pain tension cycle that occurs in the neck musculature.  A  well trained RMT will have the skills to assess your neck posture, and determine which muscles need to be release with massage therapy. and which muscles need to be strengthened to fix your posture.

In most cases, massage therapy for neck pain begins with several treatments which focus on decreasing tension, lengthening muscles, and increasing mobility of the shoulders and neck.  This will usually relieve most of the pain and tension, but in order to keep he pain away the posture needs to be addressed.  Your Registered Massage Therapist will address the posture with simple stretching and strengthening exercises.  Like all exercises, they are only effective if you take the time to perform them on a regular basis.  Without them, the neck posture will not be improved and it won’t take long for the pain and tension the return.


Exercises for anterior neck posture.

Here are a few exercises you can start doing on your own, but remember, they are much more effective if you release the muscles of the neck and shoulder with massage therapy treatments first.


chin-tuck (1).gif

Chin Tuck

Sit in your chair, or lay down in bed with no pillow.  Pull your chin inwards, to create a double chin,  Hold this position for 5 seconds.  Repeat 10x.  you can safely perform this exercise daily.




Pectoralis stretch.

You can perform this stretch on arm at a time, or both at the same time.  Place arm on door frame, and lunge forward, until you feel a stretch in you chest.  Hold for 25 seconds.  Perform this stretch at 3 different levels on each arm.




Scapular squeezes


Sit up straight and squeeze shoulder blades together, then down towards you bum.  Hold for 5 seconds and repeat 10 x.  perform this exercise several times a day.






Upper trapezius stretch


Tilt your ear to your shoulder as far as it goes comfortably.  Then with your hand, pull the head a bit farther, to feel a stretch on the opposite side of the neck.  Hold this for 25 seconds, and perform it on both sides.  The strestch should be mild and not aggressive.




These are basic simple exercises that you can start doing on your own.  In some cases massage therapy is required to loosen up the stiff muscles in order to allow the exercises to work their magic.  As the posture improves, the exercises are made more challenging to continue progress.  All our RMT’s at MyoCare Registered Massage Therapy are highly trained and skilled in providing massage therapy for neck pain.  If you have any question on how our therapists can help you, do not hesitate to contact us at