Massage Matters

Mindful musings on massage, muscles, and moxie

The Knot Whisperer Rides!

The Knot Whisperer Rides!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

How'd I Get That Pain? Part I, Head and Neck

If you’ve just run a marathon or spent time tossing your six-year-old into the air and catching him, you have a pretty good guess, afterward, as to why you have that pain. From time to time, however, you’ll find yourself with muscle pain that is a complete mystery to you. “I must have slept funny” is a common guess about the source of neck pain. And sometimes, that’s exactly what it is. But other times, there may be factors at work that could be avoided in the future. While it’s my job, as a massage therapist, to help you alleviate that pain, knowing whence it came can possibly save you from having that issue from making a return engagement.



Stressors of That Muscle


Side of neck, toward front

Lying on side while reading; poor eyesight (leading with the eyes); prolonged automobile driving; too-tight collars and neckties; drooping shoulders; chronic cough; whiplash injuries; structural faults (short leg or small hemi-pelvis); overhead painting, carpentry, wallpapering; horseback riding; front-row movie seats; working for long-periods with head turned to one side (“word-processor headache”)

Semispinalis capitis

Along the ridge of the cervical and upper thoracic spine

Sustained neck flexion while reading, writing, playing, or working; whiplash or trauma resulting in postural imbalance; improper adjustment of prescription eyeglasses; lack of lumbar support when seated

Splenius cervicis

Back of the neck to upper part of the spine

Use of the dominant eye; cold air blowing on neck, such as reading under a drafty air conditioner or riding a motorcycle with head forward with a cold wind whipping around the edge of the helmet; bird watching through binoculars

Splenius capitis

Back of the neck

Cold air blowing on neck; whiplash injury; excessive hyperextension; painting a ceiling; computer use or other reasons for sitting with head held forward and turned to the side

Trapezius, upper

Along each side of cervical spine and into the top of the shoulder

Sitting with head protracted; writing at a desk that is too high; cold weather; cradling telephone between shoulder and ear; chronic anxiety (with raised shoulder response); carrying a should bag, luggage, or heavy purse


Below the skull under the other muscles at the back of the neck

Sustained upward gaze with head tilted up; sustained awkward head positions; maladjusted eyeglasses; use of bifocal or trifocal lenses; prolonged typing while reading copy from a flat surface; watching TV lying with chin propped on hands


Side of the head above the ear

Cold draft over the muscle; clenching and grinding of the teeth; excessive gum chewing; ill-fitting dentures


Connecting upper and lower jaw

Tension, unresolved anger (clenching teeth); bruxism; pipe smoking, chewing gum; ill-fitting dentures; crushing ice or nuts with teeth; an uneven bite; Prozac and related anti-depressants such as Paxil specifically cause tightness in this muscle


Side of the neck

Coughing; carrying shoulder bags; upper chest breathing, asthma; reading in bed; whiplash

Levator scapula

From the top of the cervical spine to the top of the scapula

Looking sideways for long periods of time; cradling telephone between shoulder and ear; using crutches that are too long; tense or aggressive postures; falling asleep with head tilted backward or to one side

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