A few weeks ago I took a massage class focused on the neck and shoulders. Many of the massages I give, regardless of the client’s activities or job, involve loosening the muscles in this area. This muscle tension can come from poor posture (hunching over your computer, for example), holding tension/stress in your shoulders, or repetitive actions that stress the shoulders and/or neck area (swimming, riding your time trail bike, serving the ball in tennis……among other things).
In the class I took, along with reviewing the muscles and learning new techniques to loosen them, we also discussed headaches. There are many causes of headaches, one of them being tension in the muscles of the neck and shoulders. Stretching the neck and shoulders is a great way to deal with this on a regular basis, as is massage.
Some examples of neck and shoulder stretches can be found here. This is a cool site because it shows you the specific muscles that are being stretched as well. Whenever doing neck stretches, remember to relax your shoulders down. Actually, remembering to relax your shoulders down on a regular basis is a great way to reduce the amount of overall tension in your shoulders and neck.
We also talked about research done with adults suffering from migraines (a severe type of headache). “The massage therapy subjects reported fewer distress symptoms, less pain, more headache free days, fewer sleep disturbances, and they showed an increase in serotonin levels.” People suffering from migraines have severely decreased serotonin levels, so this increase in serotonin levels is significant. For a look at this abstract and other massage therapy research check out this site. Scroll down to Headache to find the reference to the above research, along with other research finding that massage reduces frequency and duration of non-migraine headaches as well.
So take care of those shoulder and neck muscles. Massage and/or stretching them out now, could prevent more pain in the future.