• On Your Mark

Nagging Neck and Shoulder Pain? NYC Pain Relief Therapy

Updated: Jul 12, 2019

Ever wondered why your neck is always hurting and full of tension? New York City is known for its healing spas, but even after a relaxing trip to the spa or sauna, neck and shoulder pain comes back in full force after only a few days.

Whether it is due to whiplash from a car accident, trauma or repetitive use from a sports injury, long hours spent at a computer or the normal process of arthritic changes that happen as we age, neck pain is all too common and can be debilitating. And our modern devices like ipads and smart phones only make things worse because of the chronic tendency to look down in deep spinal flexion for hours upon hours as we text, update Facebook, read the New York Times, upload photos to Instagram and send work emails.

Here at On Your Mark, thousands of people have been treated for neck pain. Our team is ready to help you find pain relief. Contact the NYC based team for a free consultation with licensed therapists.

One reason why neck pain from overuse and degenerative changes is so common is due to the inherent and somewhat delicate anatomy we are born with. The neck is highly mobile, much more so than the lumbar spine (low back) in order to allow for movement. The cervical (neck) vertebrae are also very small in size compared to the vertebrae in the thoracic and lumbar regions of the spine. This, combined with the fact that the neck is where the force and tension from the weight of the head goes.

So, combine mobile joints made up of small bones that withstand a lot of force, motion and weight and you have a perfect storm of risk factors for injury. Add poor posture, repetitive use and common traumas to the picture and you can start to get the point.

In my experience as a personal trainer (and massage therapist) in NYC, stiff neck is a particularly common occurrence that results from poor postural habits and can lead to cervical disc degeneration and shoulder impingement, which is the most common injury to the shoulder joint in which the rotator cuff gets trapped, causing pain, weakness and rotator cuff tears. Believe me, you don’t want it to get to that point.

For more on personal trainers and how to pick the right one, view our 2016 Personal Trainer Guide.

For short term relief, massages in general and clinical massage techniques such as Active Release are the way to go and actually have a whole slew of healing benefits most people don't know about. Massage therapy is actually the third most commonly used form of alternative medicine in the United States (and for those of us who live in New York, we can use all the stress relief we can get).

Here are the fantastic benefits that massage offers:

  • One hour of massage equates to 7-8 hours of sleep in the body.

  • Office workers massaged regularly are more alert, perform better and are less stressed than those who aren't massaged

  • Massage pumps oxygen and nutrients into tissues and vital organs, improving circulation.

  • It also promotes tissue regeneration, reducing scar tissue, enhances immunity by stimulating lymph flow, reduces spasms and cramping, relieves migraine pain, aids in metabolism stability and weight balance, and even lessens depression and anxiety!

The list actually goes on… So yes, getting a massage therapy is worth every penny. With that said, there are a whole slew of different types of massages and massage therapists available in New York. Which one should you use?

Let’s break it down:

Swedish Massage is the most common type of massage available and is quite relaxing, although superficial in that it does not reach deep into muscle tissue.

Deep Tissue Massage uses more pressure and might hurt a bit, but will actually relieve muscle tension and pain.

Sports Massage (also known as Fitness Massage) goes a step further and not only relieves muscle tension, but increases the performance ability of muscles. Athletes tend to perform better after receiving a sports massage, so if you’re planning on running a marathon, this is the one you want.

Clinical Massage (also known as Medical Massage) is very similar to Sports Massage, although targeted towards anyone, not just athletes, and incorporates Active Release Techniques that relieve tension and pain as well as stretching and strengthening muscles to improve performance and everyday endurance. This is the most common type of massage I administer in my own practice in NY, as it’s the most effective.

Medical and clinical massages are the best ways to immediately cure your aches, but without recognizing and correcting the caustic habits in the first place, your neck, shoulder, and spinal cord pains will continuously return to haunt you. Keep in mind that for back pain and spinal chord-related issues, you may want to see a medical doctor first for a diagnosis and treatment recommendations. Chiropractic care can also be great in conjunction with a medical massage specialist.

Active Release Techniques is by far the most effective clinical massage therapy technique for the treatment of neck pain as well as many other orthopedic injuries throughout the entire body. Through active and passive movement through the full joint range of motion while pressure and tension is applied, muscles can lengthen and relax more optimally. ART can help decompress the cervical joints and free up nerves that may have become entrapped, either by the spine or in the front of the neck.

In addition, when treating chronic neck pain I often will release the muscles in the chest and anterior neck in order to improve posture. When these muscles are short and hyperactive they will often pull the shoulders, upper back, head and neck forward and significantly increase the load and force on the neck joints. Helping to reverse this gradually through short and regular visits over a month-long span will get a person moving in the right direction of reduced neck pain and injury recovery.

Mark has treated thousands of clients here in New York City to reduce physical pain from shoulders, lower back, neck, and more. Click here to schedule a clinical massage appointment with Mark.

So what are these poor posture habits?

Here’s a quick list of habits that I notice New Yorkers tend to accumulate, that result in forward head posture (which often causes neck pain):

  • Sitting at desks for long hours

  • slouching on the couch while watching TV

  • staring down at mobile devices

  • wearing heavy clothing in winter

  • carrying heavy shoulder bags.

If any of these apply to you, here is how to solve them…

Forward head posture usually occurs in combination with other postural tendencies such as a kyphotic thoracic spine (hunched over posture), excessive internal rotation of the shoulder, shortness/tightness in chest and anterior shoulder musculature and a de-activation of the upper back muscles.

Did you know that your head more then tripples in weight with bad posture?

Take a good look at the photo bellow, this will make you think twice next time you want to slouch.

Chronic forward head posture triples the weight of one’s head on the neck. Danger!

Over time, this can put extra stress on the cervical spine: eroding spinal discs, irritating facet joints, impinging the spinal nerve roots, weakening neck-head ligaments and sheering the spinal cord.

Not only that, but the kyphotic spinal posture can lead to structural (permanent) changes in the spinal column , leading to irreversible hunch. Kyphosis can also alter shoulder joint and scapular (shoulder blades) biomechanics, increasing injury risk.

All of this can continue in a chronic cycle unless corrected through stretching, activation and strengthening the appropriate tissue and medical massage techniques such as Active Release Techniques (a method of lengthening the short and tight muscles while activating the weak, tense and inactive muscles), physical therapy and increased postural awareness.

Of course being aware of your posture at all times won’t come suddenly and naturally, which is why having a personal trainer, who also specializes in clinical massage and Active Release Techniques, is the best way to alleviate immediate pain, and decrease the likelihood of it returning over time.

"One of my early ART [Active Release Technique] success stories was with a client named Gregg. He came to me with an acute pain in his neck. After just one session, 90% of his pain was gone. Even I was amazed. I had always held myself to a high standard but I quickly realized that ART was a game changer." - Mark

The Link Between Neck Pain and Shoulder Injuries:

If you or someone you know has ever experienced neck injuries or tightness, there is a good chance that the shoulder was involved in some way as well. While that may sound obvious to many, let’s take a closer look at why.

  • Many of the same muscles move and stabilize both the neck AND shoulder. Some of these muscles include the Upper Traps and Levator Scapula. So inevitably what ever affects either the neck or shoulder directly will usually have some origin in or affect on the other.

  • The same postural tendencies that contribute or cause neck injuries also cause shoulder problems. The forward head posture that wrecks havoc on the neck is very often accompanied by excessive internal rotation in the shoulder joint (which is what controls movement of the upper arm and stabilizes the upper body when weight-bearing on the arms such as during push-ups or when giving a massage) and the rounding of the shoulder girdle (which connects the shoulder blade with the ribs and upper spine).

  • It is very difficult to correct one without the other. Treating neck pain, if there is a very specific trauma to an area, may be all that is needed. However if the neck pain is chronic, it is almost always necessary to take into consideration not just the neck alignment and health but to take a broader look at the postural tendencies, compensations and asymmetries in the entire upper back and shoulder region. Too often these areas are not assessed and treated in an integrated way, making it difficult to address the root causes of a problem rather than just the symptoms.

To prevent muscles from staying short and tight the muscles in the upper back, neck and back of the shoulder, must be activated and strengthened through the use of stretches, massage, and strength training. Yoga (the NYC cure-all) is a great way to start, but isn’t enough, so be sure to use a personal trainer who can incorporate all three.

Talk to Mark and his team about how they can help to relief your pain.


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