4 shoulder/neck stretches for your massage clients

4 shoulder/neck stretches for your massage clients

Hi everyone, I’m Ian Harvey, massage therapist.
Today I’m going to tell you about four self-care stretches that you can give to
your clients that I’ve found very effective in my practice. Before we start I should
note that not every massage therapist is allowed to offer stretching or exercise
as self-care, so please do follow your local rules. And that you as a massage
therapist might not be familiar enough with the biomechanics of stretching to
offer these kinds of things. If you didn’t learn about this in massage
school, I do recommend that you take some continuing education classes. That said
these stretches are very simple, they’re easy to demonstrate, and they’re easy to
correct. So, in all cases, do use your clinical
judgment. Before I talk about the specific stretches, I’d like to talk
about my general strategy for recommending stretches, how I deliver
them to clients. But if you’d like to skip past all that, you can click down in
the description. I used to kind of overload my clients with stretches and
self-care, self-massage, and I would kind of overload them with homework. So my
first rule of thumb is to keep it simple. That means give them one stretch per
session at most, and maybe just that one stretch forever. So even if you have
three really great stretches that you think could be helpful, try to keep it to one, because that’s
much more likely to actually be done, and to deliver results. Two is to keep it
simple. If your clients leave asking themselves, “Now was I supposed to put my
hip forward and my leg back, or was it the other way around?” If they’ve got
these questions, they’re either not going to do the stretches, or they’re going to
do them wrong. So, make these easy to demonstrate and
easy to implement. Number three: Make them stretches that they can do through their
day. So, instead of stuff that requires them
to get down on the ground, or where they need a special piece of equipment, make
these stretches that they can do at their desk or things that they can do
every time they stand up to go to the bathroom. In fact, piggybacking these
stretches on top of habits that already exist, like showering or brushing their
teeth, it makes it much more likely that they’ll actually do it. So, you might
say, “every time you brush your teeth do this stretch.” It makes it much more accessible and
easily retrieved when they’re away from your massage office. And finally, number
four is to make these pleasant stretches. If you can make these easy to do and
enjoyable, they’re much more likely to be done than ones that are kind of
self-torture. So, for this, I do recommend short-duration stretches. I’ll show you
what that means in a second. But it’s more of a of a slow pulsing rather than
a long sustained 30-second hold. Which creates less pain, less reflexive
contraction, and I found it just as effective for relieving pain. I tend to
follow the Mattes method. If you’d like to read more about that, you can click
down in the description. Now, the four stretches I want to show you today all
have to do with the shoulders, with the chest, with the neck. We’ll deal with hips
and lower body stuff later. The first one I recommend for anyone with upper back or
shoulder pain. In fact, if I could get the whole world doing this stretch, I would
be happy, and I think the world would be happier too. I’m going to start by
showing you exactly how i demonstrate these to clients as if you were the
client, and then we’ll talk about the finer points of it in a second. So, to do
this one, you’re going to clasp your hands behind your back, and let your arms
just kind of go limp. They don’t need to be held straight or
anything like that. And now, you’re going to bring your shoulder blades together,
back, and down. It should feel like you’re sticking your chest out. And don’t feel
like you need to make this a big stretch. You should just feel a nice
stretch across your chest right here. If you’re feeling that, you’re doing it
right. And then come out of that, and then back into it. And just hold it for a very
short time. Come into and out of this about as fast as you breathe. After
about five repetitions, stop, and then go on with your day. This should feel like a nice fascial
stretch through your chest. It’s not going to be an extreme stretch, and if
your client tries to make it extreme, then please caution them to pull back
just a bit. What we’re doing isn’t so much stretching the fascia, we’re
giving the nervous system an idea of where the
shoulders are. So, it’s kind of a mindfulness exercise as well as physical
stretch. And we’re giving these pec muscles and these internal rotators the
idea that they can come out and back just a bit. I tell my clients to do this
whenever they’re having paying here. I’ll tell them that they might feel like
stretching forward when they’re having that upper back pain, but that these
muscles up here are typically already overstretched. So instead they want some
slack. By explaining that to them, and having them use that upper back pain as
a cue to do this through their day, I can usually get my clients on board and
actually doing this stretch through their day. And a lot of my clients have good
results from this one. The next one is a neck stretch. This is one that I
recommend to clients who have neck cricks, or who have a history of neck cricks,
and they’d like to reduce that frequency. Instead of them doing stuff like this,
and this, I want them giving themselves gentle fascial stretches. And that looks
like this. Alright, so, clasp your hands behind your
back just like that other stretch. Let your arms go limp. Bring your
shoulder blades just a little bit back and down. And now, I’d like you to gently
rock your head from left to right, just about 20 degrees. Don’t go for the gold here, you’re not
trying to set a new world record. If you can feel a stretch down into your
shoulder, then you’re doing it right. And very slowly, just about as fast as you
breathe, about five times to each side. And then come out of that, and go about
your day. Do that about once per day, maybe after your shower when you’re
already nice and warm. So the key to this one is to keep them from doing this. From
going really far over. People are going to want to try to increase their range
of motion. Let them know that this isn’t about range of motion. This is about stretching that fascia, and
giving this neck the idea that it can painlessly move from side to
side. That it can stretch without pain. And I like to limit this one to just
once a day at first. You can increase it to twice a day if they’re having good
results and their neck is tolerating it. And tell them if they have any pain
while doing this, to make it even gentler and more subtle. This next one you might
know as the “doorway stretch.” For this one, place your hands at about head height. So,
not too high, not too low. Keep your elbows close to the door frame, or the
wall, or whatever you’re using. Place one foot in front of the other so you’ve got a nice stable base and
then lean forward. Don’t let your neck jut too far forward.
Try to feel this right through here. If you’re feeling that in your chest, you’re doing
it right. And again, don’t go for the gold with this one, just try to get a nice
gentle stretch through here. I tend to recommend this one for my more athletic
clients, and I’ve got a companion stretch for it. This next one is an external rotator
stretch. So, all the muscles that bring the arm out like this in your rotator
cuff, this is going to give them a bit of a stretch. For this, place your hands in
the small of your back, and bring your elbows forward until you feel a gentle
stretch in both of your shoulders. Come out of it, and go back in about three or
four times, just slowly and gently. If there’s any pain or discomfort, make this
even more subtle. And that’s just to give some acknowledgement to those external
rotators. We’re not trying to increase their range of motion, necessarily,
especially they’re already kind of closed in. Instead, I don’t want to acknowledge
these internal rotators without also getting a little bit of stimulus to the
external rotators. So those are my four main upper body stretches. The first two
are my go-to for any sort of upper back or neck pain. The last two are better, I
think, for athletes and for people who have very shoulder-specific problems. And
just in general, even if you don’t recommend a specific exercise, let your
clients know that if they can do anything to bring themselves out of this posture. To come back, to come up. To
stretch and move their bodies in ways other than the typical desk posture.
That’s going to send a message to the nervous system that their bodies need to
move that way, and that they don’t need further tightness. Alright guys, let me know what you think
in the comments. If you’ve got stretches that are your favorites for the upper
body, please leave them in the comments below. Thanks for watching, consider
subscribing, and i’ll see you next time.

27 Replies to “4 shoulder/neck stretches for your massage clients”

  1. That stretch for neck cricks feels AMAZING! I'm in the middle of my post-grad, and so I do a lot of slouching over books and computers, so I'm glad to have that one in my arsenal! Thanks Ian- another great vid!

  2. I wish I could have met you while I lived in Florida!! You are AMAZING! Your vids help me (and my clients) SOO much! Come to Colorado 馃槈

  3. I'm a 2nd year Med. student from Australia. Watching your videos out of interest. You are a great teacher. Trust me on that!

  4. Hie Ian your deep and very deep technique have helped me tremendously. I'm no longer intimidated when people come in and say hurt me I can work deep with out hurting"me" thank you for videos 馃槈

  5. Ian, so glad you produced this stretching video. In speaking with other massage therapists just last week, we found ourselves discussing how stretching either by the therapist or even better the client, as a daily activity, will many times do more therapeutically for necks and upper back issues than half an hour of deep tissue massage !

  6. Have been tolerating Physical Therapy and some rough exercises attempting to dislodge pains in my chest, neck, shoulder, and upper shoulder blade area. Been in pain for weeks. Until just now. Thanks for the pain relieving stretches! thumbs up!

  7. love the door frame stretch. I recommend this to all my clients. If you get the client to lift the arms up slightly higher than 90 degrees you work into PCM and the scalene muscles which feels awesome, then elevate again to target the latissimus dorsi and the deltoids. Love the head rocking technique as this is easy for clients to do on a daily basis anywhere.

  8. Hey! I am such a fan of your videos. I'm an NYS licensed massage therapist, and your videos and philosophy on bodywork are so thorough and informative. The massage therapy community really needs a presence like yours. I like how you shake things up and are frank and to the point with no BS. Thank you so much for allowing me to pick your brain through youtube! Do you teach continuing education classes? I'm very interested in attending any workshops or classes you may be hosting. Let me know! And thank you again! Keep the videos coming (:

  9. This is a little finicky, but for the first stretch when rotating the scaps back and down are the arms engaging with this action, or staying relaxed? Thanks! I love the gentle approach and simplicity.

  10. I am on the road to recovery from thoracic outlet syndrome. I do like these exercises, but they aggravate聽the tingling聽down my arm. Do聽you have any suggestions for something a bit gentler?

  11. Thank you for all the wonderful advice. I have been a LMT for 3 months now and I find that my skills have greatly improved by watching your tutorials. The clients also notice it and have commented on it recently. Your awesome. Keep up the good work Ian.

  12. Huzzah for stretching! So I've already been using these for a while and recommending them to some clients after first finding this video a while ago. I'm interested in whether I can specifically say that that first stretch that you recommend for shoulder/upper back pain stretches levator scap? Is it doing that? I know that that one seems to be a difficult place to get a good stretch.

  13. Love your videos. I have a lot of pain in my face, neck and shoulders so you help me know what to request from my therapist. Sometimes I just fall asleep to them because your voice is so soothing lol you should narrate relaxation / meditation tapes!

  14. The link to the Mattes book is the one for muscle strengthening, not one of his books on stretching. Is the one on strengthening better?

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