Do-it-Yourself Massage: A Guide

Welcome to the world of do-it-yourself massage. There are several benefits to learning DIY massage. Most importantly, DIY massage is free. Second, many of us don’t have the time or money to visit a spa each time we’re feeling stiff or sore. From waitresses to athletes, everyone can benefit from massage. And when you learn to do it yourself, you can enjoy a relaxing and pleasurable experience anytime, anywhere, at zero cost. Keep reading to learn more about DIY massage and personal massage tools.

Head and Neck

One of the easiest ways to de-stress is to give your body a little TLC by massaging your head/scalp. The best part: a head massage can decrease and sometimes even eliminate headaches. Try this technique: with the heels of your palms placed beneath your hair near the temples, push upwards and hold for 3-7 seconds. Release and repeat the motion on the rest of the scalp.

Another way to relieve headaches is to draw light circles across your cheekbones, hairlines, jaw, and eyebrows with your fingertips. Follow this by gently rubbing the ears and earlobes with your thumbs and forefingers. Next, place your fingertips (middle and second finger) at the base of the ears and move gently down your jawline, applying pressure until your hands meet at the chin.

Many of us experience pain and stiffness in the neck from sitting at a desk all day. Begin by taking and deep breath and dropping your shoulders (don’t hunch). Tuck your chin into your chest (this position stretches the neck muscles). Using two fingertips, press the spot at the base of the neck where it connects to the shoulders. Continue to apply pressure on that spot until you feel a decrease in tension. Afterwards, slowly roll your shoulders forward and back.

To upgrade your DIY head/scalp massage, we recommend purchasing one of the following tools:

  • Scarves: twist a few together and, with one hand at each end of the “rope, rub the back of your neck (up and down motion).
  • Basic head and scalp massagers are available online for less than $10. These devices consist of a handle and several “fingers” that stimulate scalp nerves as you push the massager down over your head (image above left).
  • For the neck, we recommend a pillow massager like the Homedics NMS-360. There are many varieties of neck massagers, many of which offer features like heat, vibration, and shiatsu. Most customers find neck massagers much more relaxing than simple DIY massage.

Tip: Good posture while sitting and standing can significantly decrease muscle tension. 


self-message-shoulder-neck-pain-628x363Did you know that regular massage dramatically improves circulation? To get the most out of a DIY massage, take a warm shower or bath before you begin. Use massage oil whenever possible. The liquid will make the massage considerably more effective.

Massaging the shoulders can also help alleviate headaches. Using your fingertips, apply gentle but firm pressure in small circles. If you do have a headache, it’s best to start at the base of your skull and move down the neck and then on to the shoulders. Use your right hand to massage your right shoulder (and vice versa). When you encounter a knot, move your fingertips in clockwise circles and then switch directions to loosen the knot. When the knots in your shoulders feel “worked out,” hug yourself to stretch the area.

Another technique is to hook the fingers of one hand over the opposite shoulder. Squeeze the upper trapezius muscles several times. Follow this by raking your fingers over the shoulder muscles, moving towards the base of the neck.

If your shoulders need a little more love, check out the following tools:

  • Handheld massagers provide soothing vibration (example: Homedics HHP-350 Percussion Action Massager for $32.34)
  • Personal shoulder massagers worn like a backpack (example: Zyllion ZMA-08 Neck and Shoulder Nassager with heat)
  • Massage seat cushion (example: Five Star FS8812 10-Motor Massage Seat Cushion with heat)
  • Full-blown massage chairs (click here for recommendations)

Tip: Soaking in Epsom salt is another great way to relax your muscles.

Upper and Lower Back

massage_012314045314You don’t need schooling or expensive equipment to give yourself a massage, but to alleviate back pain you’re going to need one small item: a tennis ball.

For pain and tightness in the upper and/or lower back, lean up against a wall with a tennis ball between your back and the wall. Move up and down slowly to decrease muscle tightness. Try to avoid rolling the ball across your spine. Apply pressure until you feel the ball give a little (decrease pressure if you feel pain). Continue rolling the ball across tense areas of the back for a few minutes. Be careful not to overdo it.

Tip: For overall back pain relief, rub your spine gently using your fists. Move in a circular motion. Never apply pressure directly onto the spine.

For a DIY trigger point massage, we recommend personal tools like the Body Back Buddy by Body Back Company (less than $50).

One of the most common personal massage tools is the foam roller, which you’ve probably seen at your local gym. These tools are cheap, easy to use, and can decrease muscle tension in the back and legs.

You’ll want to make sure you’re wearing clothes when using a foam roller (if you don’t have one, roll up a yoga mat or towel). Lie face up on top of the roller with the tool beneath your lower back, perpendicular to your body. Your butt and shoulders should be touching the floor when you start. Using your feet, move back and forth slowly. You will feel the foam roller moving over your vertebrae.

When you find a painful area or trigger point, stay on that area for 30+ seconds. It will likely hurt, but you’ll find afterwards that the tension has decreased

Tip: Use a rolling pin to target small areas of the back.

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