The muscles most commonly afflicted are the upper trapezius and levator scapulae muscles. These two shoulder elevators develop spasm and trigger points when held continuously in a shrugged position–the common postural position of somebody slumping forward. The muscles will also, over time, develop shortness and tightness or lose length. Further, being in the contracted state that persistent shrugging causes, the muscles ultimately have difficulty relaxing or going into a rest position. This is felt by the person suffering as “constant neck stiffness and tightness” that is unrelieved by anything they try whether stretching or massage.
My sports chiropractic work focuses on de-contracting contracted muscle. I do this through a technique called post-isometric relaxation (PIR), which takes advantage of muscle fiber physiology to get the muscles to understand, neurologically, to relax. PIR is more than a stretch; in fact, you cannot stretch out a hyper-contraction. Many people try, but make matters worse. All muscles have receptors in place that prevent excessive stretching of the tissue. Stretching into a contraction makes these receptors fire, contracting the muscle even more. Doh!
Watch the video below to get an idea of how PIR works. And if you have neck pain and stiffness that seems unresponsive to stretching and massage, call your local sports chiropractor for a full neck pain assessment. If you are in Los Angeles, Beverly Hills or West Hollywood, sports chiropractic and PIR is just a phone call away.