Massage therapy is a very physical career.
As such, it places you at risk of certain injuries, with some of the most common to this profession being tendinitis in the elbow, nerve impingement in the spine and carpal tunnel in the forearms.
However, sometimes the issues that arise can be felt within your neck.
An In-Depth Look at Neck Injuries
According to the American Academy of Pain Medicine, 100 million Americans are currently struggling with some type of chronic pain. Of these, 15 percent—roughly 15 million people—report that this pain is experienced within their neck region.
The Mayo Clinic indicates that neck pain can result from strain due to poor posture, or it may appear as a side effect of some other type of medical issue, such as osteoarthritis. In addition to pain, other symptoms of potential neck issues include muscle tightness, muscle spasms, decreased range of motion in the head region and headaches.
Not only do these symptoms have the capability of lowering your quality of life, they also make it harder for you to make a comfortable living as a massage therapist.
Therefore, one way to reduce the likelihood that you will face this type of issue is to include your neck in your self-care regimen, and there are many ways to accomplish this goal.
Practice Neck-Strengthening Exercises
“The biggest tip I could give a massage therapist would be to strengthen the deep neck flexor muscles to allow you to support your head when looking down or leaning forward,” says Lyndsay Hirst, chartered physiotherapist of Your Pilates Physio. Thus, one way to create a happier neck is by regularly exercising your neck muscles so they’re better able to withstand the workload of a busy massage therapist.
“You would do this by performing chin retraction exercises,” says Hirst. This involves “sitting or standing with an upright posture and tucking your chin in (almost to give you a double chin).”
To increase the intensity, Hirst says that you can also do this exercise “on all fours to work against gravity.”
Massage Using Proper Form
Hirst also stresses that it is important to use proper form when providing massage services. “Try and keep your shoulders down away from your ears when massaging to avoid the muscles in the back of the neck getting tight,” she says.
Kathryn Merrow, LMT and “The Pain Relief Coach,” agrees, adding that, when you’re standing, it’s beneficial to “work with your eyes looking down rather than tilting your chin down.” When you’re in a seated position, “hold your head in a neutral posture over your shoulders with an inward curve in your lower back,” Merrow says.
Perform Regular Stretches
Merrow also suggests that stretches to the neck and upper back area can help improve neck health as well. Pay particular attention to the ones at the front as they may have become shortened, says Merrow.
As far as which stretches Merrow recommends, one is “shoulder rolls, up and back, with your head over your body,” she says. However, “minor, tiny neck movements in all directions” can help as well, Merrow says.
Iris Rosa Lami, Ayurvedic therapist, yoga teacher, and manager at Gingerhill Farm Retreat, shares that there are three additional neck stretches that can help. They are:
- Side neck stretch. Sit up straight, pushing your shoulders back. Tilt the head toward your right shoulder. Place your right hand on the top of the head and gently pull down, bringing the right ear closer to the right shoulder and stretching out the muscles on the left side of the neck. Repeat on the other side.
- Forward neck stretch. Place both hands on the back of the head, pulling the head forward until your chin is nearly touching your collarbone and you are looking at your chest. You should feel tension in the muscles in the back of the neck easing.
- Alternate neck stretch. Turn the head slightly to the right, place hands on the back of the head, and pull forward until you are looking at your right armpit. Repeat in the other direction.
Become a Client, as Well as a Provider
“We spend hours each day caring for and treating our clients’ neck and back pain, but we often overlook our own physical well-being and can neglect how our own body health can impact our ability to deliver a quality service,” says Araya Fitzgerald, founder and lead masseuse at Araya Beauty. As a result, Fitzgerald says, “I take neck health very seriously, for myself and my staff.”
At Araya Beauty, tending to neck health involves taking a full-staff approach. “We regularly massage each other at the end of a long day,” says Fitzgerald, adding that this may consist of “a simple head, neck and shoulder massage to ease tension, or a full, deep tissue if any of our team is experiencing tightness, pain or fatigue.”
To enhance this experience further, Fitzgerald says that they often use hot towels and cooling lotions “to soothe and ease pain in the neck and shoulder areas.” This provides her staff with an even greater level of relief.
If you work with other massage therapists, regularly schedule time together to work on your neck’s health. Even mini massages at the end of the day can provide some much-needed relief.
When to Seek Help
Though all of these options can help you create a healthier and happier neck, it’s also important to realize that there may be times when looking after your neck involves seeking additional medical care.
The Mayo Clinic advises that you should consider pursuing additional treatment options if the pain in your neck is severe, or if it lasts more than a day or two and you’re unable to find relief no matter what you do. Treatment should also be pursued if the pain starts to spread down your extremities, or if it is combined with any level of numbness, weakness, or tingling.
Chiropractic has been found to help with this type of pain as well, with the American Chiropractic Association indicating that an adjustment to the neck “works to improve the mobility of the spine and to restore range of motion.” It even benefits surrounding muscles that could be contributing to the pain.
Creating a happy neck requires that you practice self-care to this region of the body, while also realizing when you may need additional help. When you do these two things, both you and your clients benefit.
About the Author
Christina DeBusk is a freelance writer dedicated to providing readers relevant, research-backed content related to health and wellness, personal development, safety, and small business ownership.
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