How to Relieve A Stiff Neck
A stiff neck can be caused by anything from stress or sitting in a draught, to sleeping in an odd position or watching too many games of tennis. It is, literally, a complete pain in the neck and it makes the simplest task, such as reversing into a car parking space, a slow and excruciating torture. It also makes you realize how many times you move your head in a normal day. If you have children, you soon discover how much easier it is to nod a ‘Yes’ than it is to shake a ‘No’!
A stiff neck is also one of the simplest ailments to cure and two things help tremendously heat and massage. So the best kind of neck massage uses lots of simple movements with plenty of warming repetitions, plus some deep kneading strokes to relax and release any areas with trapped nerves or muscle tension. This one not only does that, but it is also so simple that you can do it anywhere. As it is done with the sufferer sitting upright, you can even massage someone at work, while she leans forward onto her desk, fully clothed.
It brings instant relief, but stiff neck muscles do have a nasty habit of coming back during the night, so it is best to have a long soak in a warm, deep bath as soon after the massage (and before bed) as possible. Alternatively, at the end of the massage, rub a product containing menthol up the sides of the neck so that it warms the skin and muscles for some time afterwards.
How To Massage A Stiff Neck
The best position for this massage is for the sufferer to be seated on a comfortable, upright chair. For steps one to four, she should lean forward onto a cushion resting on a table, or sit facing the back of the chair and prop the cushion between her and the chair back. If possible, she should wear a towel and you should use lots of oil so that your hands really slip over the sore neck muscles. If the sufferer needs to be fully clothed, keep your movements light over any tender areas.
1. Place your hands, palms down, on either side of the spine in the middle of the back. With a firm pressure, push you hands up to the shoulder tops, then slide one hand out on each side to the top of the arm, draw them back in across the top of the shoulders and up either side of the neck. Repeat the stroke from start to finish for several minutes, using it to feel for any tense spots of knotted muscles as you go.
2. Start with the sufferer bending forward onto the pillow, so that her shoulder blades protrude. With flat, straight hands, place the sides of the palms and the little fingers across the top of the shoulder muscle and do a firm, fast friction rub across the muscle from arm to neck. Repeat on the other side. Then using your thumbs only, make small circles to knead under the shoulder blades and up the spine to the top of the neck.
3. With your fingers forward, place your hands, palms down, over each shoulder muscle by the sides of the neck. Push and pull the shoulder top muscle back and forth. Then working on one side with both hands, squeeze, pinch and knead the muscle for several minutes. Finish by standing on the opposite side, placing palms over the top of the arm and sweep the hands up the side of the neck, one after the other.
4. Hold the base of the sufferer’s neck with your thumb to the right and fingers to the left and support her head as she bends forward. Rub your hand quickly up and down the neck in a very light friction stroke for two minutes. Then roll your hand across the neck from left to right and back, to push and pull the muscles against the vertebrae. Make sure you have plenty of oil for both strokes and keep the pressure light over areas of muscle stiffness.
5. Place the palm of your left hand on the sufferer’s forehead and use it to support her head as she bends forward. Place the thumb of your right hand on one side of the last vertebrae at the top of the neck, and the index finger on the other side. Press in with the tips of thumb and finger and hold for a count of ten, then release and make small circles over the same area. Repeat, working in a line outwards, across the skull from ear to ear.
6. Make the sufferer sit upright, with shoulders straight but relaxed. Place your hands, palms down, around her arm tops with your fingers forward. Gently push her shoulders forwards until you feel a stretch and hold for a count of ten. Relax. Then, with your hands in the same position, gently pull her shoulders back and hold the stretch for a count of ten. Repeat both stretches, forwards and backwards.
7. In the same position, place the palms of your hands down on the shoulders, on either side of the neck, with fingers pointing forwards. Push down firmly with your hands while the sufferer slowly drops her head hack as far as is comfortable. Hold for a count of ten, then get her to raise her head to the upright position and release the downward pressure of your hands. Repeat twice more from the beginning.
8. While she is sitting upright, bend her head to the right side and support it with your right hand, palm up above her ear. Place your left hand below her other ear, with your thumb under the jaw and fingers stretched round the nape of the neck. Slide your hand down the length of the neck and across the shoulder top to the arm, pressing down to stretch the muscle. Repeat several times on both sides of the neck.