How to Massage a Pulled Neck Muscle?

A pulled neck muscle, also known as a neck strain, is a common injury that can cause moderate to severe pain and stiffness in the neck. It occurs when the muscles in the neck are overstretched or torn. Symptoms include muscle spasms, swelling, tenderness, and reduced range of motion in the neck. While rest, ice packs, and over-the-counter pain medication may provide some relief, targeted massage techniques can significantly aid the healing process. Read on to learn how to give yourself or someone else a therapeutic massage for a pulled neck muscle.

Determine the Location of Pain

Before massaging, identify exactly where the pain is originating. Common problem areas include the sternocleidomastoid muscle, which runs down the front side of the neck, and the trapezius, which extends across the upper back and behind the neck. Gently apply pressure along the neck and shoulders to pinpoint the trigger points. Avoid massaging directly on the spine or any extremely tender spots.

Apply a Warm Compress

Heat helps relax tense muscles and improves blood flow. Soak a washcloth in warm water, wring out excess moisture, and drape it over the affected area for 5-10 minutes before massaging. Alternatively, take a warm shower or use a microwavable heating pad wrapped in a thin towel. Avoid applying heat to recent injuries that are still swollen or inflamed.

Use Light Strokes at First

Start with very light pressure using your fingertips. Effleurage strokes that lightly glide over the surface of the skin are ideal. Gradually work from broad, sweeping motions toward more focused kneading and squeezing as the muscles become less tense. Avoid vigorous rubbing that could further aggravate the injury.

Massage Along the Muscle

Use long, smooth strokes that follow the length of the pulled muscle. For the sternocleidomastoid, glide from just under the ear down toward the collarbone. For the trapezius, massage from the nape of the neck outward toward the shoulders. Repeat several times using consistent, gentle pressure.

Release Trigger Points

Many pulled neck muscles develop knotted trigger points. Isolate these tender spots with your fingers, then apply sustained pressure for 10-30 seconds to release tightness. Breathe deeply and relax into the discomfort. Ease up if it becomes too painful.

Stretch the Muscles

Gently stretch the neck throughout the massage to loosen tight, overworked muscles. Avoid abrupt, jerking movements. Slowly tilt the head to one side, hold for 20 seconds, then tilt to the other. Drop one ear toward the shoulder, then the other. Finally, look down toward the chest, then up toward the ceiling.

Use Massage Tools

Consider using a massage tool to target hard-to-reach muscles without straining your hands. A massage cane or trigger point tool can apply focused pressure when rubbed over knotted areas. Or use a tennis ball against a wall to massage your upper back and neck while standing.

Adjust Pressure as Needed

As the muscles relax, gradually increase pressure for a deeper massage. First use light pressure with fingers. Then progress to deeper kneading and squeezing with the fingers, thumbs and knuckles. Use fists or forearms to release very tense, stiff muscles. Respond to feedback and avoid excessive discomfort.

Incorporate Stretching

Gently move the neck through its full range of motion as you massage. Rotate the head in slow, controlled circles. Gently pull the head forward to stretch the back of the neck. Then tip it back or tilt it side to side. Avoid abrupt movements or overstretching.

Drink Plenty of Water Afterward

Massage promotes lymph drainage and detoxification. Help flush metabolic waste and residual tension from your system by drinking at least two glasses of water following treatment. Stay well hydrated in general while recovering from a pulled neck muscle.

Repeat Daily as Needed

For best results, massage the affected muscles once or twice daily until pain subsides. The increased circulation will deliver nutrients for repair while releasing tightness and adhesions. Massage around the injured area if it remains too sensitive. Consult a doctor if pain persists beyond a week.

A therapeutic massage can significantly accelerate neck muscle recovery after a strain or pull. Use light pressure around inflamed areas, then progress to deeper techniques as tolerated. Consistent, gentle massage will relieve pain and stiffness, relax tense muscles, improve flexibility, and help prevent chronic issues like fibrosis. Along with rest and medication, massage can get you back to normal function and mobility.