A Pain in the Neck? Or NOT

So many people come to me with neck pain. It can be anything from a migraine to a pain traveling from the neck to the fingers or shoulder blade. After several years of treating both acute and long-term neck pain, I had to ask myself the question, “Is this really a neck problem or is the neck pain a symptom?”

Here’s a typical scenario. “John” comes into my office for a treatment – his neck is “killing” him. After asking him several questions about his daily life and work habits, I inquire about his range of motion and posture. He stands and begins to move his neck in several plains of motion. Although evaluating these movements is important, I emphasize a postural analysis as well. At least 90% of neck pain sufferers (who come in to see me) have a distorted posture.

It’s not unusual for the shoulders of a client to roll forward through the years. Associated with the roll is a rounded upper back, a head that sits far forward of the shoulders and neck, and a head that’s extended in order to see the horizon. The same person may or may not have a similar distortion of their hips and low back.

The problem in these cases manifests itself in the neck but the real problem is the distortion of the hips, back and shoulders.

When treatment begins I start with the hips, abdomen, ribcage, chest and the front of the neck. It’s important to encourage those tissues to resume a normal, resting length and facilitate a proper standing position. Then and only then is the neck ready for treatment. But we aren’t finished with a neck treatment ……..

Following any neck work, the back muscles need to be “awakened.” Without this portion of the treatment, the pain could return in as little as 72 hours.

As in this example, the pain and the problem (creating the pain) can often be in 2 separate places. Your body is an interconnected system, not a collection of parts. The system must be treated to correct a problem with one part.

The next time you have a serious pain, make sure your therapist checks the whole body and not just the site of your pain ………….. you will be glad you did!

Massage and Brain Function 2

In the last Blog Post, we discussed the role of touch on the chemicals released in the body to feel good. Those chemicals were cortisol, dopamine and serotonin. Dopamine and serotonin increased with human touch. And cortisol decreased significantly. As a result, stress levels went down, while feelings of general well being increased and the function of the brain improved with respect to modulating eating habits, reinforcing behavior and contributing to learning and higher cognitive functions. All very good outcomes!

Let’s look at another study supporting massage for brain health.

In this study, the researchers measured four different types of stimuli to the feet: a control group (the patient just resting without touch), a massage with a tool, a reflexology treatment and a Swedish massage to the bottom of the right foot. With a functional MRI scan happening simultaneously, researchers measured the brain activity. It seems that the massage tool and the control group had the lowest level of change. The Swedish massage and the reflexology treatment both affected the brains function positively but in different areas of the brain. It is believed the touch receptors (on the bottom of the foot) perceived each form of touch differently. The reflexology affected the parts of the brain that affect your sense of well being where the Swedish massage affected mood.

As a result of the studies, there seems to be a direct implication in the positive nature of massage therapy on neural and mood disorders with a particular interest placed on the treatment of depression. Regular massage therapy performed by a licensed profession massage therapist can make a world of difference to those suffering with mood disorders and those who interact with them.