Neck pain can be among the most uncomfortable and difficult complaints for a patient to experience. A neck injury can result in spasm, stiffness, limited range of motion and headaches, and is often accompanied by shoulder or back pain.
Patients with neck pain are often prescribed anti-inflammatory medication, such as ibuprofen or naproxen, in order to manage the pain, and sometimes muscles relaxants depending on the source of the complaint. However, some patients find these medications provide only limited relief, and many medical professionals now recommend supplementing prescriptions with alternative therapies.
Massage therapy can provide an effective alternative or complimentary treatment, helping to relax the injured area and increasing the general health of the surrounding muscles, joints and fascia.
The two most common causes of neck complaint are strains and sprains. Strains are caused by repetitive stress on the spinal muscles, and are often linked to poor posture or sleeping position. Sprains are tears in the ligaments of the spine, often resulting from injuries such as whiplash. Other causes of neck pain include pinched nerves, degenerative spine disorders, and dental issues such as jaw misalignment.
Before treating patients with neck pain, registered massage therapist school graduates will advise them to consult their physician to see if tests such as X-ray or MRI are needed to assess for structural or physiological damage. RMTs will also be on the lookout for patients who display unusual symptoms, such as dizziness or fever.
Swedish massage can help relieve stress and tension contributing to neck pain, as well as relaxing muscles and improving circulation in the neck region.
Deep tissue massage can also release tension in the muscles and connective tissue of the neck and upper back, as well releasing adhesions in the area. For patients with neck spasms, chronic tension and pain, trigger point therapy can be applied to help restore blood flow.
Neck pain is often linked to other regions of the body, most commonly the shoulders and upper back, but also sometimes the lower back. Students in registered massage therapist training learn how to assess patients with neck issues to identify any possible contributory problems before preparing a treatment plan to address the root cause.
A 2014 study conducted by the Group Health Research Institute in Seattle demonstrated that the frequency and length of massage therapy sessions can be particularly important when treating neck injuries. During the study, 228 patients were divided into six different treatment groups, and given varying levels of treatment over the course of four weeks.
The results showed that neck functioning and pain levels improved significantly among patients who received two or three one-hour sessions per week. By comparison, patients receiving fewer, shorter massages did not see the same benefit.
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