What’s the Best Massage for a Stiff Neck?



About a week ago, I woke up with a stiff neck. I figured I’d just slept with my head cranked funny and went on about my day. The next day, though, I could hardly turn my head without excruciating pain. Since then, the level of pain goes up and down from day to day, but overall it doesn’t seem to be getting any better. What’s the best massage I can get that will help my neck feel better?


A stiff neck is relatively common in today’s society, especially among people who sit at a desk in front of computers all day. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 20 percent of adults have experienced neck pain in the past three months.[i] In many cases, you can loosen up your neck with a little stretching, or perhaps by applying a heating pad or a cold compress. But when the pain doesn’t go away or seems to get worse, you may need to seek professional help.

A randomized trial reported in the Clinical Journal of Pain concluded that patients who received 10 massages over the course of 10 weeks experienced significant improvement in their neck pain as a result of that treatment.[ii] Furthermore, none of the patients experienced any adverse reactions to the treatment, proving that massage is not only effective but also safe to help alleviate the pain of a stiff neck.[iii]

Massage therapists have the experience and skill to loosen up tight neck muscles and help you sit and stand without pain or difficulty. Book a massage at a time and place that’s convenient for you, and be sure and let the therapist know that you’re having problems with your neck. You could even talk to your boss about booking a massage therapist to come to your office and treat the employees to a quick head and neck massage. If you have this problem, you can rest assured at least some of your coworkers do as well.

A simple Swedish massage may provide you some relief and help loosen your neck so that you can move your head without pain. The focus of Swedish massage is relaxation, so this massage can help you if you feel as though you’re under a lot of stress. A lot of people hold their tension in their neck, making it one of the first parts of your body to give you problems when you start to get stressed out.

If there’s more to your neck pain than stress or an inability to relax, you may find more benefit from deep tissue massage. A massage therapist can evaluate your neck to identify trigger points that may be the source of your chronic pain. Using deeper pressure and focused kneading, the massage therapist will work out the chronic tension in your muscle tissue and improve circulation in those specific areas. Over time, you may notice a significant improvement in your neck pain.[iv] They also may give you some techniques you can use on your own to massage your neck between visits from your therapist.


[i] Cleveland Clinic: “Do You Have a Stiff Neck? Try These Simple Remedies”https://health.clevelandclinic.org/2015/05/do-you-have-a-stiff-neck-try-these-simple-remedies/

[ii] Clinical Journal of Pain: “Randomized trial of therapeutic massage for chronic neck pain” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19333174

[iii] Id.

[iv] Pain Science: “Massage Therapy for Tension Headaches”: https://www.painscience.com/articles/spot-01-suboccipitals.php

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