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How to Massage a Stiff Neck


Chances are, if you are in front of your computer or leaned over reading hard copy, you need help relieving your stiff neck. There are several options for relieving that stiff neck. You could opt for self therapy or massaging your own neck and upper back or seek the help of a professional who will work it out for you using specialized techniques.

Identify the Problem

There are several causes of stiffness in the neck. It could be as simple as a crick in the neck, repeated muscular use leading to tension and stiffness, or a more serious condition like arthritis, trauma or a pulled or strained muscle. For acute pain or sudden onset of pain in the neck that is sharp and intense, seek the advice of a physician before you try to treat yourself as you may make the problem worse.

Safety First

Safety is your first consideration before giving yourself a neck message. Avoid the cervical vertebrae, the seven bones in the neck. The probability of injury or displacement of the bones or discs in the neck is high in non-professional treatment. The last objective is to make your pain worse and potentially cause irreparable damage. Identify the muscles in the neck and then target the specific muscles that are bothering you.

How to Give a Neck Massage

The muscles most likely giving you trouble are the trapezius and the levator scapula. The trapezius muscle is a large muscle that starts in the neck and extends down the back. You likely feel it at the outer, back of your neck and down to your shoulders. The levator scapula is interior to the trapezius and is closer to the spine. Once you have located these muscles, use small, circular, kneading motions for four to five minutes to relieve your stress. Use the hand on the opposite side to optimize pressure. Start with shallow, small movements working your way deeper, but not so deep that you are causing yourself pain. Once you have complete your self-massage, roll the neck beginning with a tilt of the head to the front, working clockwise around four to five times or until you are more comfortable.



Tasker, Michael, “How to Give a Neck Massage to Fight Neck Pain”,, January 2010;

Simon, Chris, “How to Give a Great 5 Minute Massage” February 2008;

Michelle, J. “How to Give a Good Neck Massage”,, January 2010;

Asher, Anne, “How to Massage Your Own Neck and Shoulders: The Trapezius Muscle”, October 2007.

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