Do-It-Yourself Massage Therapy: Neck and Shoulders

The neck and shoulders are where many people carry tension. This simple massage lets you relax them on your own.

First, cross your right arm in front of you and grab your left shoulder at the base of the neck. Using firm squeezing motions, work toward your left arm. Knots of tension here may feel tender to the touch, but work them as firmly as you dare. It might be uncomfortable at first, although it should not be painful, but the release of the tension is worth it. Change hands and repeat on the other side.

Again crossing your right arm to your left shoulder, feel further back until you locate the top of your shoulder blade bone. Wiggling your left shoulder slightly will help you locate the bone. From the edge of that bone nearest the neck, move your hand slightly above and toward the neck, so that you are pressing into soft tissue, not bone. This is the levator scapula muscle, which runs from this point up the back of the neck to just below the base of your skull. Using two fingers add pressure as firm as you can without pain, massage in small circles for the length of the muscle. On the neck, you should be working just to the side of your vertebrae. Change hands and repeat on the other side.

With your fingertips at the base of your skull where it meets your spine, massage in gentle circles down your neck until you reach the bony prominence where your neck and shoulders meet.

Finish by gently stretching your neck muscles. Slowly tip your head from side to side, then back and forward.