It’s not always possible to get to the massage therapist when you feel knotted muscles or tension in your neck. As with injury, sometimes the tension and neck pain happens when you least expect it, and your therapist is booked for weeks. Luckily, there are plenty of self massage for neck pain techniques that can offer relief from neck pain.

Where to start with massage for neck pain 

Start by finding a quiet place. This may even just be at your desk at work if you can close the door.

Begin by breathing deeply and slowly, in and out. By making your exhales slightly longer than your inhales, you signal your sympathetic nervous system that everything is okay and you can relax. Many times, this deep, even breathing is enough to let go of tension and stress and provide relief.

Once you have taken several deep breaths and allowed yourself to start relaxing, try these three easy massage for neck pain techniques.

Technique #1

Place the palm of your left hand on the back of your neck. Your thumb should be parallel with your other fingers. Apply a gentle squeeze to your neck, and then slowly turn your head to the right. Hold for one breath.

Return your head to center, and then slowly turn to the left. Repeat five to seven times in both directions. This should feel good, so apply just enough pressure to feel a release of the muscles, but make sure not to pinch or squeeze too hard.

Technique #2

Place the knuckles of the right index finger and middle finger just below your right ear (it helps to make a fist). Take a deep breath in, and as you exhale, slowly turn you head to the left.

Hold for one breath, then return your head to center. Repeat five to seven times on both sides (use left index and middle fingers on the left side, and turn your head to the right). There is no need to press hard with your knuckles. The muscles will massage themselves across your knuckles as you turn your head.

Technique #3

This technique targets the trapezius muscle, a large area of muscle that drapes across the shoulders and down the back (like a poncho). Wrap a tennis ball in a sock. Lay the sock diagonally across your upper back (toe end over the right shoulder, other end looping under the left arm).

Apply pressure to the tennis balls in one of three ways: pulling the sock tight and moving the tennis balls around, leaning back in your chair, or lying on the ground and moving on it. Switch the diagonal cross to massage the other side.

Technique #4

Another easy way to release neck and shoulder tension is to hold a scarf or a belt out in front of you at shoulder height. Moving very slowly, take your arms up and over your head, all the way over until they are behind you. Keep your elbows straight as you move.

If you have a hard time keeping them straight, widen your hands a bit until you can. As you raise your arms over your head and start to lower them behind you, you will notice a spot where your shoulder seems to catch. This may be slightly painful. If it is too painful, widen your arms even further, but if possible, hold for a moment in that spot, breathing deeply in and out.

Complete several full rounds of this exercise (from the front to the back, and then from the back to the front). You are essentially massaging and releasing tension in the shoulders that can lead to tension in the neck, using your body’s weight and resistance to help instead of exhausting your hands and arms further by squeezing and rubbing endlessly.

Yoga poses for neck pain

For further help to work out neck tension and stress, try the poses in the following video.

Get help for severe neck pain

If you’re suffering from severe or chronic neck pain, you may need additional help. You can find a pain doctor in your area by clicking the button below or looking for one in your area by using the tips here:

Find Your Pain Doctor


Weekly updates on conditions, treatments, and news about everything happening inside pain medicine.

You have Successfully Subscribed!