Neck tension causes, symptoms & how massage helps

Neck tension is a really common problem.  For some people it’s intermittent, while others suffer from it for extended periods.  Neck massage is usually included in a back and shoulder massage, but if you have particular problems with neck tension, then you will probably benefit from more work being done on the neck area. The muscles at the base of the neck can get especially tight and cause a lot of discomfort.

Symptoms of neck tension include:

  • Feeling of stiffness
  • Discomfort or pain in the neck and above the shoulder blades
  • Restricted neck movement (not able to look over your shoulder and/or lower your ear towards your shoulder)
  • Headaches
  • A tightening sensation around your head
  • Muscle spasms

What causes neck tension?

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There are a number of causes of neck tension.  What is happening is that the muscles in the upper back and neck are failing to relax fully and staying slightly contracted when they don’t need to.  There may also be some muscle “knots” – bundles of muscle fibres that are stuck together.  Possible causes for this are:

Poor posture habits

When we have good posture, our bodies are balanced and stress on our muscles and joints is minimal. Poor posture increases stress in certain areas, which over time causes tension. If we walk around with hunched shoulders, this pushes the head forward and downwards. As we need to be able to look where we are going, the neck muscles have to compensate by extending the neck backwards. This isn’t a natural position and leads to tension build up.

Long periods of desk work

A lot of neck and shoulder problems start with desk work. Sitting in one position for long periods can lead to tightness in muscles and stiffness in joints. If you’re looking down at papers on a desk, or looking at a screen that isn’t at the correct height, you’ll be putting strain on your neck muscles. All of this will be even worse if your posture is poor.

Looking at smart phones

Neck massage Chelmsford - text neck

Spending hours on your phone is often worse for your neck than sitting at a desk. With desk work, the tendency is often for the whole upper body to slump over the desk with some support from the arms. This isn’t ideal of course, but causes less neck strain than looking down at a phone.


Our bodies go into stress response mode when we’re anxious.  This includes tensing of muscles.  So if someone suffers from anxiety, their muscles are often in a state of tension.  The person may get so used to this state that the muscles never properly relax.

Repetitive movements involving the shoulders (painting or sawing for example)

Some occupations involve strenuous repetitive movements which cause irritation and inflammation of muscles and joint structures.

Carrying a bag on one shoulder

Uneven loading of the shoulders can lead to imbalances, with one side weak and stretched and the other side tight and tense.

How to improve neck tension

To effectively deal with the problem, you need to address the causes as well as the symptoms.

Dealing with the causes

Desk work: you should make sure that your work station is set up to avoid strain and posture problems You should also try to take breaks and do neck mobilising exercises whenever you get the chance.

Smart phone usage: try to cut down on non-essential use and hold the phone higher so that you’re not looking down at it.

Shoulder bags: rucksacks distribute the weight evenly, but obviously aren’t always suitable.  The lighter the load, the less damaging it will be, so only carry what you really need to.  Try to make sure that you’re keeping your shoulders level.

Repetitive movements at work: the solution to this isn’t easy.  Usually there isn’t an alternative to doing the repetitive movements and all you can do is to manage the symptoms as described below.

Dealing with anxiety: See this post for advice on managing anxiety

Dealing with the symptoms

Neck massage

Massage helps with both prevention and treatment of neck tension.  Regular massage can help to keep the muscles relaxed and tension free.  It is also effective in releasing tension and breaking down knots. Either deep tissue or hot stone massage will help.

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Read more about deep tissue massage
Read more about hot stone massage


Heat helps muscles to relax.  Either a heat pad or a hot bath are soothing to tense muscles.  Although there is no research to support its effectiveness, many people find that Epsom salt baths help to soothe and relax muscles.

Whole body relaxation techniques

This is especially relevant when the cause of the tension is anxiety, but breathing exercises and other relaxation techniques can help ease tension due to other causes too.

Book a back and neck massage for tension release

A massage for neck tension is a 45 minute treatment and costs £25. If you would like to book, then fill out the enquiry form and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can with available appointments, alternatively contact me using any of the contact details below the form:

Phone: 07835 346476


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