Nancy Mignone, CMT

Massage Therapy, Blacksburg, VA

Self-Massage Tips


Self Massage for Neck, Shoulder and Low Back Tension

When you have discomfort, tension, or pain in the neck, across the top of the shoulder, or in the low back, use these techniques until you can get an appointment with a massage therapist or osteopath. You can continue to use them after your bodywork session to help restore muscle strength and function, and help the muscle reset and relax.

For the knot that is common on the muscle across the top of the shoulder (Upper
Trapezius), you can rub its attachment at the base of the skull to loosen it. The place to rub is on the base of the skull about halfway between the ear and the center of the back of the neck. It should feel tighter there. Rubbing it can ease the tension along the top of the shoulder.

Here's a useful self-massage tip for neck tension. This will help with tension in the major movers of the neck, both forward and backwards, as well as turning the neck to the side*. Choose one side, right or left, to work on first. Take the fingers of the opposite hand (if you start on the right side of the body, use your left hand), and place them on your upper chest just below the collar bone about 3 inches to the side of your breastbone. Press firmly. Slide your fingers downward until they slide over a bony ridge (your first rib). Here, between the 1st and 2nd ribs, if it feels sore, lumpy, ropy, or "congested", rub hard for 30 to 60 seconds. This is the Chapman's point** for the muscles named above (see also footnotes below). Repeat other side.

For tension in the low back, rub the upper edge of your last rib near it's lateral edge on the back of the body, right and left . To find these points , follow your last rib from spine towards the side of your body. The end of the rib will be almost on your side (as far as you can go, but still be on your back). These are the Chapman’s points for the Quadratus Lumborum (QL) muscles, right and left, which flex the trunk to the side and raise the hip in walking. It is a major mover in the low back and is often tight from improper use (that is, your waist is not a hinge, bend the knees!) The QL runs from the lumber vertebrae of the low back to the hip.

When you have a tight low back, it is often very useful to rub the Chapman’s point for the opposing muscle to the QL, the Iliopsoas, which runs from the front of the lumbar vertebrae to the hip. Those points are on the belly, 1 inch to the side of the navel, and 1 inch above it. Dig your fingers in deep there and rub. This is commonly tight and sore, and will be especially so if you have a tight low back.

*the Splenius muscles up the back of the neck, the Scalenes and Sternocleidomastoid on the lateral and anterior neck
**Chapman's points, or neurolymphatic reflex points, work on specific muscles and organs, increasing lymph flow and nerve impulses. They affect muscles in the same way as direct muscle techniques that reset the golgi tendon organs in the muscle, allowing them to relax their fibers more. For more information, see "Applied Kinesiology" by David. S. Walther, 1988-2000.



Nancy Mignone, LMT
Blacksburg, VA

Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals
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