Muscle Monday– “Wait, I have muscles there?!”

The other day, a new client asked me if I ever did scalp massage. I said “yes, in almost every session,” and that she would be receiving one at the end of her massage. It turns out that, even though she had received a few massages over the years, she hadn’t ever had her scalp worked on! I’m always surprised if it gets left out, because it’s one of my favorite parts. It’s such a crucial area–especially for headaches and stress relief. I can hear it right now, though: some of you are saying “Wait, I have muscles in my scalp?!”

Oh yes. And they connect with muscles in your face, and to muscles in your neck, which all connect to other parts, and so on. Let’s not neglect them–everything is connected! I often get this question about the scalp, the face, the front of the neck, and believe it or not, the glutes (AKA your butt. Trust me, even if you’ve got a bit more padding back there than you’d like, you’ve got muscles there [and the same goes for your mid-section]. If you didn’t, you’d just fall over in a big pile of skin and bones.) I’ve dealt with some of the anterior (front) neck muscles before, and we can talk about the glutes another day (but seriously, don’t neglect these either…they can even be massaged through your clothes. They can hold a lot of tension–we don’t call problems “a pain in the butt” for nothing!)

But let’s talk a little bit about the scalp/head and face. They contain over 30 pairs of muscles! They help you chew, swallow, speak, smile, frown, wink, kiss, and imitate Magnum or Elvis. (Fun fact: the levator labii superioris alaeque nasi, better known as the Elvis muscle, has the longest name of any muscle in the human body.)

As I said earlier, the muscles in the head and face have a connection with the muscles of the neck and shoulders. As any of them scrunch or contract or contort, the others get pulled or stretched, affecting posture, breathing, and emotion. Be aware when you’re on your computer or looking at your phone or tablet, because when your head drops forward, all that noggin-weight pulls on the base of the skull and the muscles of the neck have to jump in to stabilize. Also, I’ve found, as a glasses-wearer, when my head is tilting too far down, I end up recruiting a lot of muscles around my ears and scalp to keep my glasses from falling off, which often leads to a wicked headache!

I tend to work on the neck, head, and face at the end of a massage. It’s especially nice to do then because you’ve likely had your face in the face cradle for a while. However, it can also be great to work the scalp at the beginning, because it can help unload the tension from all the tiny, overworked muscles after a long stressful day/week/month. Do let me know if you’re headed to a meeting or someplace fancy right afterwards, if you don’t want your hairdo destroyed. For everyday purposes though, don’t be afraid to get your hair messed up a little–it’s worth it! Plus, I don’t use any oil/lotion there, and I’ve got a mirror right by the door, so you can neaten up your newly voluminous coif before leaving the room. 😉

(Winky face provided with the help of another facial muscle, orbicularis oculi.)

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