Massage Tutorial: Neck pain (deep tissue)

Massage Tutorial: Neck pain (deep tissue)

This is how I approach general neck work from a myofascial perspective. I’m not targeting any specific pain, but I definitely have some goals in mind: Lengthen and soothe tight cervical muscles; reduce tone in the trapezius and levator scapulae; and spread the fasciae connecting the neck, chest, and shoulder. As always, I take every opportunity to outline the client’s musculoskeletal anatomy. It feels good, and it provides some proprioceptive awareness that can be useful long after they’ve left your office.

My general routine: Start bilaterally, spreading the upper chest and gliding up the posterior neck using palms and fingers. Feel free to turn any of these “swooping” moves into stripping, allowing fingertips to sink into the tissue. Petrissage both sides with a duck grip, either simultaneously or using alternating pressure. Rock the head by using alternating compressive effleurage strokes to the neck/trapezius region. Finally, “walk” your way under the thoracic spine by using your knuckles or wrist as a fulcrum.

Move to one side. Set up your unilateral strokes by spreading the head and shoulder away from one another: Using crossed hands, glide laterally in the upper chest using your palm, and medially/superiorly in the shoulder/neck using an open fist (the “Harvey Maneuver”… c’mon, humor me!). If you have trouble with this one, it can help to plant the elbow of your outside arm on the table. Follow this with some alternating kneading of the superior trapezius, using your thumbs (if your hands are palm-up) to make contact with the scalenes. Walk under the shoulder and strip up the spinal erectors, outlining the superior angle and spine of the scapula with your fingertips. Finally, cross your hands and pin the superior angle in place with one set of fingertips, while the fingertips of your other hand travel up the lateral processes of the cervical spine, targeting levator scapulae. Bring the head back to neutral by scooping the neck with your outside hand, placing your fingertips on the opposite side of the spine, and stripping superiorly. Repeat on the other side.

I like to finish with a nice cranial cradle, my fingertips placed along the occipital ridge. Be careful not to let the chin droop toward the chest during this; while it can be a nice stretch for a moment, it can compress the airway, which just feels uncomfortable after a few seconds.

Leave me comments, ask questions, and feel free to link to your own neck work videos! I’ll gladly link them up here in the description. Thanks!

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