Why self-massage? Benefits of Neck, Shoulder and Cervical self-massage
Self-massage has multiple benefits for all problems affecting the shoulders, cervical spine, head, and face. With a self-massage, we can alleviate many problems, from tension headaches, contractures in the neck, in the trapezius, cervicoarthrosis, cervical hernias and cervical rectifications. How do you manage to alleviate all these problems? Well, self-massage produces the following effects:
- It increases local blood flow (vasodilation), which favors the drainage of local biochemical substances that increase pain.
- Elevation of the pain threshold due to a release of endorphins. The pain threshold is the minimum stimulus needed to feel pain; by raising it, the stimuli that cause us pain will not affect us.
- If there is any possibility of harm or injury, the benefits of therapeutic massage will outweigh the potential harm.
- The mechanical forces of self-massage applied to the soft tissues affect the flexibility of the connective tissue; they stimulate the myofascial system and stimulate changes in muscle tone.
- It releases the muscular taut bands, which are the place where myofascial trigger points are produced.
- Increased mobility in skin, fascia and muscle tissues.
- It produces a state of relaxation and well-being.
Typical problems of the cervical area
The most frequent neck injuries are the following:
Pain in the cervical area is very common today; wrong positions can generate this pain: using the computer mouse, too many hours of study, etc. The neck is a structure with excellent mobility and, at the same time, houses structures such as the esophagus or the trachea, which are significant for feeding or breathing; it also houses the blood vessels that will nourish the brain.
Cervicalgia or neck pain
Cervicalgia has a complicated treatment. As long as the mechanism that generates the injury is maintained, it will continue to repeat itself; that is, we will have recurrent neck pain. The cervical zone is the exit zone for nerves, it is the exit zone of the brachial plexus, and the alteration of the brachial plexus can generate different symptoms in the upper limb, such as the arm with a sensation of numbness, sleepiness, tingling, suffering paresthesias or dysesthesias (alterations in sensitivity) and that will have to be treated with different techniques such as neuro meningeal mobilization, in this case, we will be talking about Cervicobrachialgia. Then we will have a cervical problem, and the whole arm will understand it up to the hand.
Sometimes the feeling of cold hands, a heavy arm that is difficult to move, or the feeling of padding in the arm is due to poor circulation. Circulatory problems in the upper limb are frequently due to changes in the cervicothoracic outlet, the first rib syndrome, or a cervical rib. The cervical ribs will generate a lot of cervical pain and contractures in the trapezius area.
Cervicalgia or cervical pain sometimes extends to the dorsal area, generating back pain . This is very common in cases of cervical osteoarthritis , since the pain extends over the dorsal vertebrae, and in cases of osteoporosis or osteopenia, when the vertebral bodies lose bone density, fractures or cervical crushing are generated.
What muscles do we work with this self-massage?
With these self-massage maneuvers, we work all the superficial and deep cervical musculature, especially the trapezius and transverse muscles, which tend to shorten and accumulate excessive stress. We will also work on the angle of the scapula and rhomboid muscles, which are very frequently involved in pain and tension in this lower cervical area and in back pain.
The maneuvers of this self-massage are suitable to be done prior to stretching and mobilizing the cervical area and thus help the muscles to be more relaxed or loose, which will facilitate the relaxation of muscle and fascial tissue.
Steps for self-massage
It is important to follow an order to perform the self-massage.
Step 1: know the order of the areas that we will work on
We have made the following image to show you the order in which you will work the structures for self-massage:
Step 2: Focus on the suboccipital area
We begin with a massage from behind the ears to the back of the head, applying pressure while sliding with the thumbs.
Step 3: Focus on the suboccipital zone and zone of insertion of the neck muscles
We continue the massage, this time making tearing movements from the back of the head towards the ears. Be careful in the red zone; a nerve passes through there that must be treated carefully.
Step 4: Focus on the back of the neck
We continue with the tearing movements, this time in the neck area; from back to front. We go down little by little towards the shoulders, and once there we can work unilaterally tilting the neck to one side. We can relax the muscles even more if we tilt our heads back.
Step 5: Focus on the area of the angle of the scapula
We look for zone 4, which is the upper angle of the scapula, and we rub slowly. Depending on the pain, we manage the pressure.
Step 6: Focus on the front of the shoulders
We place the fingers on the sides of the vertebrae so that the thumbs are on the front of the shoulders. There the thumbs will press down as they slide back.
Step 7: Focus on the insertion zone of the pectoralis minor
We place our fingers on the coracoid process and slide our fingers, pressing up and down. At this same point, we will slide our fingers down, making pressure, while we move the shoulder back.
Step 8: Focus on the zone of insertion of the scalenes
Lastly, we locate ourselves below the clavicle and apply pressure with our fingers while rubbing from one side to the other.
Conclusion on neck, shoulder, and cervical self-massage
When we talk about neck pain, we cannot forget that physiotherapy and osteopathy treatments will aim at vertebral reharmonization. Mobilization maneuvers, the release of the base of the skull, and treatment of the suboccipital musculature and the occipital base may be necessary. Neck pain usually presents with contractures, fibrosis, “knots” in the muscle and myofascial trigger points, and this self-massage can help you combat these problems. You can do many things for yourself to improve pain, tension, or discomfort.
Of course, remember that sometimes it is necessary to use more specialized techniques (dry needling, ischemic compression, Jones technique, cryo massage or ice massage, etc.) that your physiotherapist will propose in the treatment.
In our portal we have other neck self-massages that we recommend:
Neck and upper cervical self-massage
A very useful self-massage for tension in this area as well as for headaches.
Ball self-massage for back pain or dorsalgia. Relax back.
This self-massage maneuver relaxes the dorsal muscles between the shoulder blades or shoulder blades, where a lot of tension accumulates that we can release or loosen with this massage.
Self-massage of the neck, upper cervical and nape with a wooden stick.
Cervical problems or pain are usually rebellious and need treatment at home beyond the work of a physiotherapist, so this self-massage with the help of a stick can help you complete your treatment.