A recent study showed that massage makes a difference with neck pain. That may seem obvious to some, but more specifically it was the length of time of massage that was at the head of this research.
According to the March/April issue of "Annal of Family Medicine", a massage of 60 minutes done over multiple sessions is helpful for people with chronic neck pain and dysfunction.
The study showed that the 30 minute massage did not show significant improvement versus a regular 60 minute massages over a 4 week period.
There is no question that relaxing the muscles will relieve pain. You see, nerves run through these muscles, and if there is tightness or knots in the muscle, or a certain amount of inflammation, then there will be pressure somewhere. The thing is though, not all nerves detect pain. If there is enough pressure however, you compress multiple nerves, and You Will Get Pain!
Usually what happens is that a massage that is too short, the problem is able to return quickly. I don't know exactly why, for the purposes of this study, 1 hour makes a significant change and 1/2 hour doesn't, but I can tell you the most likely reason. More than likely, 1 hour allows the muscle to relax enough to where inflammation mobilizes enough or dissipates.
Also, in a 30 minute massage, the masseuse may massage certain areas but not have the extra time to really focus more on the ones that need it the most. That 60 minute massage may give enough time for the masseuse to focus on the more needed areas, allowing inflammation to fully dissipate. This also may allow range of motion to fully restore which keeps inflammation from building up in one or two specific muscles.
In that one hours time, he or she may actually do some stretching while massaging. For example, if you tilt the head to the side while massaging you may be able to hit trigger points in a different way, allowing them to more quickly break up.
Lastly, he or she may use a massage gel that not only helps for the massage (typically reduces friction), but may help to relax the area too.