Neck Pain Treatments - Active Release, Sports Massage and Myofascial Release for Neck Pain and Inju
Updated: Jul 2, 2019
Neck pain is a regular part of life for so many New Yorkers and Americans. Whether it's from a car accident, a ski accident, a contact sport injury, endless hours spent in front of computers, chronic stress or just the natural arthritic changes that occur as we age, chances are that you or someone you know has struggled with nagging neck pain at some point in their lives.
Neck pain can interrupt your life in so many ways, making it hard to turn or tilt your head, preventing you from exercising, interfering with sleep and just making simple and/or fun activities difficult, unenjoyable and even impossible.
On Your Mark NYC is a team of certified and licensed professionals who understand the uniqueness of each individual's anatomy to treat chronic pain in a way that works for their muscle structure.
Desks and Modern Technology are a Pain In Your Neck!
How many hours do you sit at a desk each day and spend staring down at your smart phone or tablet combined? Take a few seconds and think about it. I don't know about you but it is disturbing to even try to add up all of the hours, and keep in mind I am on my feet a lot as a clinical massage therapist and personal trainer but I still rack up the hours looking down and jutting my head forward. It is estimated that today's teenagers rack up on average 8 hours of screen time per day.
For Americans and New Yorkers alike who sit for long hours on trains, in cars, at desks and on couches either shifting their head forward to get closer to the desktop computer or laptop, the question has to be asked: what does this do to our bodies.
The basic answer is simple. Modern technology, as beneficial and integral as it is to modern human living, is a pain in the neck, as well as a pain in many other parts of the body. For each inch forward you stick your head out, most of the time not really thinking about it, the relative weight of your head on your neck increases by about 10 pounds. It's hard to know how far forward your head position might be at any given time on your own but it's safe to say based on 15 years of clinical experience in medical massage and personal training that it is significant enough to compel clients to come in for treatment in large numbers.
Now, get this. The average human head weighs about 10-12 pounds. The small and somewhat delicate muscles, ligaments, bones, joints, nerves and discs in your neck are where most of the force and tension from that weight goes. This is how the human body has evolved and it seems to have worked pretty well for us, right? But when you look down at your phone to find your favorite song on the train or text your friend on the way to the bar, you significantly increase the relative weight of your head on your neck and generate as much as five times the force.
And given how addicted so many are to their devices, this extra force is nearly constant, especially when you take into consideration that this extra force and tension don't just stop when you look straight or even try to sit up tall. To the contrary, forward head and downward head postures stick with you all day and the increased forces on the neck that these positions create pretty much creates constant wear and tear.
Over the next few decades or even sooner, we will start to see early-onset arthritis and neck issues in teenagers, young adults and perhaps even children due to excessive screen time. I am lucky enough to have twin nephews who mean the world to me, and when I sit in between them in the back seat of their parents' car, I cringe when I see them looking straight down at their smart phone or tablet for long periods because I know that they are creating constant wear and tear on their neck joints.
Certified injury repair therapists can recognize and treat long term bad habits that put strain on your neck.
Treatment Options for Neck Pain
There are many treatment options for chronic and acute pain. Which ones are most appropriate depend on the diagnosis, the severity, the current symptoms, treatment goals and preference. Surgery should be your last resort, especially for anything related to the spine.
In addition to the Active Release, Sports Massage and Myofascial Release neck pain treatments shown here, exercise is vital. The muscles, joints and nervous system need to be constantly re-trained and reminded to be in a healthier alignment and to do this you will need to be proactive starting now and perhaps work with an injury recovery therapist for help.
It will be key to modify your head position when at work, while reading your kindle or typing an email. To do this, try putting your laptop or desktop on an elevated platform (even if it's just books) or simply try holding your arms up higher while on your phone so you're not staring straight down all the time.
Manual therapies such as Active Release Techniques, Myofascial Release and Sports Massage in general can have a significant impact on neck pain, especially when combined with other medical and injury recovery therapies such as exercise, physical therapy, chiropractic care, medication, injections, rest, ice, heat and surgery. Below are video demonstrations of neck back pain treatments.
Sports Massage is a general term referring to the combination of a range of manual therapy techniques aimed at enhancing athletic performance and fitness training. Whether it is on location at a sporting event or in a therapist's office, the goal is function and performance. The three general categories of sports massage are pre-vent, post-event and maintenance. Common modalities used include deep tissue massage, trigger point therapy, active release, myofascial release, compression, therapeutic stretching, Swedish massage and other
Active Release, also commonly known as ART, Active Release Techniques and Active Release Therapy, is a clinical manual therapy specifically designed to treat muscles, tendons, ligaments, joint tissue and nerves. It is a movement-based manual therapy therapy that helps restore range of motion, break up scar tissue, release muscle adhesions, increase blood flow and reduce chronic and acute pain.
A gentle blend of stretching and massage using no oil, Myofascial Release is a relatively slow and non-invasive therapy. It involves sustained pressure to the affected tissue and is beneficial in large part because, by not using oils or cream, a “shearing” affect occurs which allows the tissue to move and slide better. Improved movement and gliding of fascia and muscles takes pressure off of a specific area and reduces the mechanical stress and repetitive micro-trauma that impaired movement leads to.
VIDEO GUIDE: Treatments for Neck Pain
The videos above and below demonstrate Active Release, Deep Tissue Massage, Sports Massage and Myofascial Release treatments for specific muscles, ligaments, connective tissue and joints that affect the low back. Which ones I use depends on many factors including the type, severity and duration of the shoulder injury as well as client goals.
PLEASE NOTE that these videos are NOT instructional videos for health providers to use for learning, certification and teaching. These videos are strictly for client education and any use of these videos or the Active Release name, trademark or logo without up-to-date certification is strictly prohibited and may result in legal action by Active Release Techniques, Inc. and On Your Mark NYC, LLC.
I usually start with head and neck traction. It's a great way to warm up the skin, muscles and fascia as well as begin affecting mobility and synovial fluid circulation in the joints. It's a gentle and relaxing technique that I also use as a transitional movement as well as a valuable assessment tool I repeatedly incorporate in all neck injury recovery treatments.
These muscles are very often involved in some way when there is any kind of neck pain - chronic or acute, severe or mild. I rarely if ever neglect these muscles when treating someone with neck pain.
Why? Well, these 3 (anterior, medial and posterior) muscles are long, thin, flat and run the entire length of the neck, attaching to the sides of the vertebrae (transverse processes).
They play a central role in neck stability, especially in producing and resisting side to side movements. If someone has a structurally long neck that places extra responsibility on these muscles which can lead to trigger points, adhesions, fatigue and tightness. Any time there is arthritis, pinched nerves or herniated discs in the neck, these muscles will undoubtedly go into spasm in response to and to protect the injured areas. The scalene attachments to the rib cage and their proximity to the brachial nerve after it exits the spine further implicate these muscles in neck pain.
This group of four small but strong muscles have the important job of helping to keep your head up straight. They sore up easily, feel great to have worked on and respond exceptionally well to Active Release and tripper point therapy. If a client has sharp pain when moving or being moved in any direction, I'll be very careful about moving the head too much in attempting to treat these muscles.
But I'll always spend some time on them during neck pain treatments. Releasing them can help alleviate headaches, allow other muscles to relax and help the client relax overall as well.
The SCM is a long, strong and thick muscle in the front and side of the neck and throat region that moves the head and neck in many directions. It is prone to tightness and trigger points due to stress, posture, physical activity and injury to the area. I'll treat this muscle using trigger point therapy to release hypersensitive spots that can contribute to headaches. Then, I'll incorporate Active Release to lengthen the muscle while releasing adhesions in it. Effectively treating this muscle can help reduce headaches, neck pain, shoulder soreness and chronic poor posture.
TMJ (TempoMandibular Joint) pain is not uncommon, can be very painful and may be caused by very different factors such as dental / anatomical structure, chronic tendencies to clinch ones jaw and grind ones teeth as well as the by-product of head, neck and sinus issue. Myofascial and Active Release treatments for TMJ can be powerful unless the cause is bone structure.
In these cases the best that manual therapies cam do is reduce symptoms, which can be very important of course but won't solve the problem completely. That is why understanding the cause of TMJ pain is essential.
This is a small, flat and superficial muscle that can get tight from poor posture. It is easy to release and can help the person's head sit back more comfortably over the shoulders. While it is not a strong muscle it is often important to address as part of a comprehensive treatment for neck, head and TMJ pain.
Upper Trap / Levator Scap
These two muscles are where people often feel a lot of tension even if they don't have a specific shoulder or neck injury. These muscles can contribute to headaches, neck pain and shoulder injuries by affecting how well the joints and muscles move. I don't think I have ever treated or effectively resolved a shoulder injury without working on these muscles.
They are central in the body's stress response, when holding a heavy bag in your hands or over your shoulder, when lifting things overhead and in controlling posture and maintaining neck, head and shoulder stability.
This muscle is central in keeping the head of the humerus (ball) in the shoulder socket when initially raising your arms overhead. At a certain point the upper traps and deltoids take over as the arm gets higher. When this muscle is under-active, stuck or injured, it may lead to shoulder impingement which can be very painful and even result in full tears of the muscle and/or bone spurs. Active Release treatments for this muscle are easy and can result in discomfort but also immediate and lasting pain relief.
It can be treated alone or by separating it from the upper traps. Its influence on the neck specifically is in part is due to its proximity to the upper traps and the propensity of these two muscles to get stuck together.
This muscle is central in maintaining good posture and smooth shoulder and neck mechanics. It often feels tight because it is under a lot of tension from being stretched and chronically weak. But it is not a muscle that needs to be stretched in most cases even though it feels like it needs to be. Instead, it needs to be activated and strengthened as well as treated with manual therapy to release trigger points that form in the muscle. This Active Release Technique treatment feels very therapeutic and often results in notable pain relief and enhanced range of motion in the shoulder and neck.