"The shoulder and neck area are where tension and stress tend to accumulate," says R. Alexandra Duma, DC, DACBSP, a sports chiropractor for Team USA who practices out of FICS in New York City. "Massages are a great way to relax your muscles, increase blood flow to your muscles, relieve stress, and even boost your energy. It's also a great way to give yourself a little break from work every hour."
Your neck and shoulders seem like a hard place to target on your own, but you don't need the help of your go-to masseuse to get the job done. Dr. Duma says you can massage away the tension using nothing but your fingers and a little pressure. Here's exactly how she recommends giving yourself a neck and shoulder massage at home.
How to give yourself a neck and shoulder massage at home
For your shoulders:
- Drop your shoulders so they're not hunched up by your ears, and tuck your chin to your chest to stretch your neck.
- Place your fingers (except your thumb) by the area where your neck and shoulders meet—aka the the upper trap/levator scapula. (You should feel this muscle by lifting up your shoulder blade.)
- Press firmly and hold for a few seconds. Make sure there's no sharp pain or you're not getting any numbness—that means you're pressing on a nerve.
- Release and repeat until the muscles feel more relaxed.
Take it up a notch: While pressing, you can also roll your shoulder back and forward gently and rotate your head to the opposite side and down. For example, you can press and hold the right side of your upper trapezius/levator area with your right hand, bend your neck, and look toward your left knee. You can repeat this on each side; try not to let go of the pressure.
For your neck:
- Place the fingertips of both of your hands on the back of your neck.
- Using circular motions (you can add some type of topical relief cream or lotion) and moving up and down, make sure you reach all the way to where your neck meets your head (the suboccipital area). These muscles are very important, and when tight, they can cause headaches.
- Once you reach the ridge of your head, place your thumbs on the muscle belly (you should feel the meatier part, not bone or "spiney") and have your hands rest on top of your head.
- Use gentle circular movements, or just hold in an area that has tenderness for a few seconds.
Take it up a notch: You can also use your fingertips to massage the front part of your neck and above your clavicle area. There are also a lot of muscle attachments there.
Get even more relief with this head, neck, and shoulder stretch:
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