Stress and tension are two leading causes of pain, particularly in our neck and shoulders. The neck is a complex series of muscles and ligaments that support the spine in every physical activity. If you work at a desk or drive frequently for long periods, your shoulders rotate forward, causing stress on your neck. But you can relieve stress headaches and neck and shoulder pain with self-massage a few minutes a day or when you need relief the most.
We’ve consulted several massage therapists and reviewed many products that help to relieve pain in various muscles:
You could certainly use our recommended neck and shoulder massager, but if you’re someplace with no electrical outlet, or you don’t have it with you, try these self-massage techniques.
Begin with simple stretches
As you would do for any exercise, your muscles should be warmed up first before you begin to self-massage. Start with these simple stretches.
1. Breathing is important for all massages. Breathe in deeply and let it out slowly two or three times.
2. Now, inhale and slowly lift your shoulders up towards your ears. Then, exhale slowly and lower your shoulders. Do this two times; if you feel pain or discomfort, simply stop.
3. Rotate your head, slowly and gently, from left to right, stretching your neck muscles as far as you can towards your shoulder. Then repeat, rotating your head from right to left. Again, only stretch as far as is comfortable. If you feel pain on one side, or you can’t get as much motion, don’t strain.
4. Interlock your fingers behind the base of your skull. Slowly push your head downward, gently stretching neck muscles. Then slowly raise your head, keeping your interlocked fingers at the base of the skull for support. Do this two or three times.
You’re now ready to begin your self-massage.
How to self-massage your neck
Remember to breathe deeply and exhale slowly as you massage. Sit straight in a chair with a firm back, and keep your head erect throughout.
1. Put both hands behind your head. Use your thumbs to find the indentations just beneath the bony base of the skull. Move your thumbs in a circular motion in the indentation.
2. Slowly work your way down the back of your neck to where your neck muscles meet your shoulder muscles. Avoid the side of your neck, as you shouldn’t press on arteries.
3. When you’ve reached your shoulders, interlock your fingers. Gently bend your head forward, and slowly splay out your fingers, using your fingertips to apply slight pressure to the muscles as you release them from your neck.
4. Put your thumbs back into the indentations beneath your skull, and gently lift your head, as though you were trying to pick it up off your neck. Do not rock your head back and forth; simply apply gentle pressure as you lift.
5. Tilt your head to the right, and using two fingers of your right hand, start at the base of the left side of your skull, and gently massage neck muscles in a circular motion. Feel for the muscle, avoiding your arteries, and slowly work your way down to your shoulder.
6. Tilt your head to the left, and using two left fingers, massage muscles on the right side of your neck from the base of the skull to your shoulders.
7. Make a loose fist with your right hand and your fingers relaxed. Tilt your head to the right, and gently tap the muscles of the left side of your neck down the length of your shoulder. This light percussive action induces muscle relaxation. You can also perform this percussion with your fingers.
8. Tilt your head to the left, and repeat this step, using your left hand to gently tap the muscles on the right side of your neck and shoulder.
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