You don’t need an appointment, a spa or even another person to reap the benefits of a massage. “When it’s not possible to get a professional treatment, you can relieve everyday aches and tension on your own,” explains Elizabeth Bryan Bragg, a licensed massage therapist at Shift PT in New York City.
“Massage assistance equipment such as Theracane, Backnobber and foam rollers are great tools to use for myofascial release and relaxation of tired, knotted muscles,” adds Scott Danberg, director of fitness at the Pritikin Longevity Center & Spa in Miami. However, often all you really need are your own hands and in some cases, a tennis ball, to help release the pain in your neck, shoulders and back. “Just note that you should never put direct pressure on your spine,” adds Bragg.
Try these five self-massage techniques to beat neck and back pain.
1Soothe: Back of the neck pain
Twist two or three scarves into a thick braid-like shape, suggests holistic psychotherapist Patty Schein. Stretch the braided scarves and place them behind your neck, holding one end in each hand. Slowly rub the scarf band up and down your neck to release tension.
2Soothe: Upper back pain
Stand against a wall and place a tennis ball between your left shoulder blade and your spine. Pressing your back into the ball, move up and down or back and forth on it, keeping it in the same general area. Be careful not to roll over and press your spine into the tennis ball. Repeat with the ball between your right shoulder blade and spine.
3Soothe: Side of the neck pain
Grasp the back of your neck with one hand placing the heel of your hand into the space just behind your ear at the base of your skull and your fingers wrapped around the opposite side of your neck. Squeeze, applying pressure with the heel of your hand only (using fingers just for leverage). Work your way down your neck to where it meets your shoulder. Repeat several times. End with some gentle neck stretches, tilting and rotating your head from side to side.
4Soothe: Shoulder pain
Hook the fingers of your left hand over your left shoulder. Your upper trapezius muscle will be beneath the palm of your hand. Give it several good squeezes. You can also roll or rake your fingers over the muscle, working from the outside in towards the base of your neck. Repeat on the right shoulder with the right hand.
5Soothe: Low back pain
Lie on your back on the floor with your legs straight out and place a tennis ball just left of the corner where your pelvis and spine meet. Do not place the tennis ball directly on your spine. Roll horizontally on the tennis ball out toward your hip and back again a few times. Roll vertically on the tennis ball from your pelvis up to your rib cage and back down again a few times. Repeat, beginning with tennis ball at the corner where your pelvis and spine meet on the right side of your spine.