In our world of looking down to screens and books, and of stress, our neck are under great pressure. In this article I present to you a nice self-massage to release most tensions from your neck.
First, and most importantly, take a moment now to just notice how your neck feels. How does it move? Can you rotate more to one side that to the other? Can you bend forward, back and to both sides as much as you’d like? Is it completely pain-free? Now that you have established a picture of the present state of your neck, go through these exercises. For those that have a side, do them on one side, and compare both sides of your neck before going to the next side. This process is important in getting to know your body, which is crucial to good health.
Drop your head forward, then gently grasp the back of your neck without using your thumb. Squeeze as you tilt your head backwards (kind of grabbing yourself by the scruff of the neck), and relax as you bring it forwards. Repeat a few times.
Note that it’s also great in reverse: firmly grasp the back of your neck with your head upright, and drop your head forward, technically pulling the skin of the back of your neck with the weight of your head.
Glide the back of the neck
Turn your head to one side, then gently press your fingers (the whole fingers, not just the tip!) of the other hand on your neck, just below the ear. Press hard enough that there is significant drag on the skin of your neck, but not too hard. And now slowly turn your head to the other side, while keeping your hand in place, and keeping a steady pressure. Change sides and go again. Repeat for a few minutes. Explore different levels where to put your fingers. How does it feel really close to the ears? How does it feel almost on the shoulder?
Separate the layers
Turn your head to one side, and bring the tip of the fingers of the same side’s hand to your neck, facing straight to the other side. Explore the landscape below your skin, and find a valley. Now gently sink your fingers in that valley, and keep them in place, while you turn your head to the other side. Don’t go too strong; it shouldn’t be painful, though it might burn a little. Again, try with different valleys, at different heights, and listen to your body. What feels good?
The next few exercises deal with the upper traps, which you might consider more of a shoulder muscle. Remember however, that they attach to the spine and base of the skull! And that’s why I’ve included those exercises.
Upper traps sponge
Grasp your upper traps without using your thumb. Squeeze as you lift your shoulder, and relax as you bring it back. Repeat a few times.
You can add an image to that: imagine that your upper traps is a sponge, full of dirty water (say you’re in the middle of washing up). Now as you lift your shoulder and squeeze, imagine you’re squeezing this water out of the sponge, and as you relax your grasp and release your shoulder down, the spong fills with fresh, clean water again. This will make this technique vastly more effective! You can also add this image to the mama cat exercise above for added benefits.
Upper traps rotational release
Look straight ahead, and with your fingers, pin one of the extremities of your upper traps (just above your clavicle, towards the shoulder) with a mostly backwards, and slightly lateral (away from your head) pressure. Now turn your head to the other side (this might be very tight, so be gently with yourself) then gently come back to neutral. Change the exact point of pressure a bit, and do that again. Notice which points “grab” more, where you feel tensions, and so on.
Upper traps linear release
Start again by looking straight ahead, and now pin the upper trap straight down. Lean your head to the opposite side. Again feel where the tensions are, and change the exact point of pressure a few times to experiment. You can also compine leaning with some rotation, to see what results you get.
And now again, take a moment to notice how your neck feels. How does it move? Which exercises felt good?
This post also exists in French.
Want more like this?Check out the following blogs from massage therapists I know from around London:
- On The Run Health and Fitness on running, nutrition and sports massage.
- The Soma Room on sports massage and exercise.