Areas that are chronically lengthened tend to hurt more then the shortened, tight areas. Massage Therapists knows this.
The sweet pain you get when your therapist hits that "knot" is in a muscle that is chronically lengthened, NOT shortened.
Therefore, in stretching we are sensing pulling, pain or a limitation and so we pull more to decrease the sensation of "tightness"(yet, it is the short muscles that we really need to access). We temporarily change the sensation in the area so that it feels like we have corrected the situation.
Think of the neck muscles as a series of rubberbands connecting to various vertebrae(bones) in the neck. The rubberbands vary in length. Some cross one vertebrae while others will span more than one vertebrae. If there are any rubberbands that are lengthened chronically then those vertebrae will bend more easily.
We therefore, run the risk of irritating those vertebrae, compressing the shortened side even more and pinching nerves.
Here is a safe and gentle way to lengthen and decompress the sides of your neck:
First make sure you are sitting comfortably and evenly on each hip. This should be done GENTLY and SLOWLY so as not to elicit tension or pain. Breath in and gently bring your shoulders up toward your ears. Breath out, and gently lower your shoulders.
1. Breath in and slowly bring your Right ear and your Right shoulder closer together. Breath out and gently bring your ear and shoulder back to its resting place. Do this 5 times, making sure you are not forcing or pulling anything. It needs to be done without symptoms.
2. Notice the difference you feel on your Right side from your Left side of your neck.
3. Repeat this movement on the Left side.
4. You will notice a generalized improved mobility in the sides of your neck! Amazing!
Here is a wonderful YouTube video showing another way to reduce neck pain by involving the whole spine! It takes only 2 minutes but you will immediately notice an improvement in mobility. You will be amazed at how moving mindfully gets the results you want without stretching.