Menu Close

Neck Pain: What’s really happening?

Neck pain is quite complicated and extremely obnoxious when it’s happening to you. As a Massage Therapist, it’s been my experience that when you are unable to turn your head to a specific side and that side hurts, most of the tension is actually originating from the opposite side, but not always. The neck likes to play tricks on you and will give you headaches on one side from tension on the opposite. Symptoms of neck pain can include: tight neck muscles, headaches, migraines, fatigue, muscle tenderness, allergy flare up, stress and anxiety, or irregular sleep habits or non-restful sleep, among other, less common and somewhat eccentric symptoms.

When talking about the neck, it’s necessary to talk about the full spine. The spine, even though is many individual bones and muscles, works as a unit. This unit likes to keep everything balanced, based on your ears–your inner ears are what tells your brain if your head is on straight. This causes a zig-zag pattern to emerge from tension and dysfunction. If your left hip is off, then it zig-zags all of the way up to your neck to keep your head balanced. If you are in a car accident and get whiplash and have more tension at the base of your skull on the right side, your spine will do zig-zags all of the way down your spine to try and correct the imbalance.


This is a great compensation technique our bodies do without us being aware of it happening. Unfortunately, this causes all sorts of pain and dysfunction with our necks.


With talking about the full spine, I could focus on any part of it, but the neck is one of the most important areas of the spine. If your neck isn’t functioning correctly, it will trickle down your arms, spine, legs, and spread to dysfunction in your organs. It’s not good!


The neck has so many muscles, it’s difficult to say that this one or one group of muscles causes this amount or type of pain. It’s a learning curve. No massage therapist will know for sure what’s causing your neck pain until they have worked on you enough to weed out certain possibilities. The neck, alone, has over 24 muscles! If you want to include muscles that attach the neck more to the skull or to the body, that number increases.


Neck pain does not always come from trauma or an injury. With computers, smart phones, driving, and more, it’s easy for us to pull our heads into a forward-head posture. Even though we know it’s bad for our necks, we still try and hold our skinny smart phones between our ear and shoulders. We carry bags larger than five pounds and load them down until the straps break. These and many other repetitive motions can and will cause neck pain and dysfunction.


If you are having neck pain, headaches, or tingling in your arms, getting bodywork to help decrease and manage that can be extremely helpful and can prevent worse symptoms. The Mayo Clinic is a fan of massage for neck pain. Especially if you have been in a car accident or have had whiplash, recieving massage for your neck, specifically, can really help your every day functionality.


The neck is pivotal for optimum body functionality. A client a few years ago came in complaining of neck pain and limited range of motion. She could neither turn her head nor look up and down. She had a leg that was an inch and a half shorter than the other. I spent an hour on just her neck, she left my office with about 20% range of motion restored, and the next day–her hips evened out! She no longer had a leg that was an inch and a half shorter! We traced it back to a car accident she had been in that left her lower back really messed up and sever whiplash, and by working on relieving the neck tension, her spine allowed other tensions to release. How amazing is that?