Ease away headaches and tension with this relaxing neck and shoulder massage

Most of us hold a lot of tension in our neck and shoulder muscles. Tense, tight muscles are painful and can lead to headaches and structural problems. Tension builds up because of busy lifestyles, poor posture and stress, and self-massage is a very effective way to relieve it . This relaxing de-stress massage is quick to do – and can be done with or without body oil or moisturiser.

Relaxation makes you feel better, and it has a beneficial effect on your entire system. Massaging the neck and shoulders eases muscles, releases tension and re-establishes the correct blood flow to the neck and brain: enabling you to think clearly and rid yourself of tension headaches.

When doing this massage, you may feel some tingling in the muscles as the tension eases away and the effect of the self-massage filters down throughout your body. If some places are sore when you begin, start gently and work deeper as the stiffness eases. If some places are very painful, do a little, move on and come back again.

Relaxing De-Stress Massage

1. Feel up the back of the neck to the base of the skull with both hands. Massage with your fingertips in tiny circular movements either side of the spine at the top. Next go up onto the base of the skull, using gentle pressure. Pay particular attention to sore areas, for example in the natural dips in the skull.

2. Now move your fingers out towards the ears, massaging along the base of the skull. Continue slowly around the edge the skull bone with gentle pressure. Go up the back of the ears, then around and down on the front of the ears where the lower jaw begins. Seek out tense muscles and use just enough pressure to work into nooks and crannies. If you find yourself yawning it ‘s a good sign that you’re relaxing!

3. The fan-shaped muscle: the Temporalis, above the ear can cause headaches if it is permanently tight. Massage one side at a time. Cup your hand directly over your ear, and spread your fingers spread out a little so they fan out. Massage slowly with fingertips in little circles in an arc on the sides of your head. Next work out over the temples – be gentle here! -and back behind and above the ear. The two dips in the skull towards the back of the head (in line with the top of the ear) are often sore points too. After finishing this side, do the other side of your head.

4. Cup the right hand over the back of the neck, so your hand covers the spine. with your fingers, massage all the cervical (neck) vertebrae from the top of the spine down to the base of the neck at the shoulders. Swap hands to do the left side.

5. Feel under and slightly behind the ear for the large rope-like muscle that starts here and runs down to the front of the neck. If you can’t feel it, turn your head so it contracts. The Sternocleidomastoid can be very tender: use a rolling motion between thumb and fingers and work from top to bottom. When you reach the collarbone, go back to the top and work down again. Do this three or four times.

6. Find the two points of the collarbone at the front centre of the neck. They are the two ‘knobbly’ points above the chest. Massage very gently under the bone from the middle out towards the shoulder. Sometimes slightly lower is more painful than higher, but use a light touch here as the lymph nodes under the skin need gentle treatment.

7. If you hold tension in your shoulders, work on the shoulder muscles at the point of the shoulder. Feel the end of the right shoulder/top of the arm with the left hand. Use your fingertips to work into the spaces between the bones. Sore places mean tight muscles, so start gently and work deeper gradually. Massage the places where muscles attach to the collarbone and shoulder-blade too, and work over the top of the shoulder to the back as far as you can reach comfortably.

8. Finally, close your eyes and place your cupped hands over them. The warmth from your hands relaxes and relieves tension in the muscles around the eyes. Hold for three to five minutes. This is great for stress related tiredness, or screen fatigue.

You may not need all of the relaxing massage – pick the areas where you feel need to be massaged and work on them regularly.

Tip: Use this relaxing massage after sport, after driving and to relax you before bed.

Did you know? Stress affects your entire body: it uses up the same vitamins the body needs to fight off illness, which is why we often go down with bugs and infections when we have a lot to cope with.

If you get headaches regularly, get a thorough health check from your doctor.

Elaine Bartlett, Dip.ITEC, Nut. Cert. Faceworks Founder, Kinesiologist and Reiki Master.