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7 Massage Techniques to Release Neck Pain

Neck pain is one of the most prevalent problems in today's society. Many paths lead to neck pain, whether due to poor posture, looking at a screen all day, stress or injury. If not addressed as soon as possible, it can lead to longer-term or worse issues that could impact your life even more.

Massage therapy can be a highly effective way to alleviate neck pain. Through the skilled manipulation of soft tissues, massage therapists can release tension, improve circulation, and promote relaxation in the neck and surrounding muscles. This approach helps to reduce muscle knots, ease muscle spasms, and increase the flexibility of the neck, ultimately leading to pain relief. Additionally, massage therapy encourages the body to release endorphins, natural painkillers that provide a sense of well-being and further diminish discomfort.

neck massage

Today, we'll look at 7 massage techniques to release neck pain to help you relieve the discomfort quickly and efficiently.

Understanding Neck Pain

Common Causes of Neck Pain

Among the most common causes of neck pain are the following:

  • Poor Posture: Prolonged periods of slouching or hunching over electronic devices can strain neck muscles and lead to pain.

  • Muscle Tension and Knots: Overuse or misuse of neck muscles can result in tension and the development of painful knots.

  • Stress and Anxiety: Emotional stress often manifests physically, leading to muscle tension and neck pain.

  • Injury or Trauma: Accidents, whiplash, or falls can cause immediate or delayed neck pain due to tissue damage.

The Role of Massage in Neck Pain Relief

Massage therapy is a valuable method for addressing neck pain caused by these factors. It can help by:

  • Relieving Muscle Tension: Skilled massage techniques can target and release tense muscles, reducing discomfort.

  • Improving Circulation: Enhanced blood flow aids in the healing of injured tissues and promotes muscle relaxation.

  • Reducing Stress and Anxiety: Massage induces relaxation and lowers stress hormones, mitigating pain caused by emotional tension.

  • Promoting Healing: For injuries, massage encourages the body's natural healing processes, aiding recovery.

  • Preventing Recurrence: Regular massages can help maintain muscle health, reducing the likelihood of future neck pain.

Incorporating massage therapy into a holistic approach to neck pain management can provide immediate relief and long-term benefits by addressing the root causes of discomfort.

Preparation for a Neck Massage

A neck massage can be a soothing and effective solution when seeking relief from persistent neck pain. However, ensuring a successful session involves essential preparation steps to maximize the benefits and overall experience.

Choosing a Suitable Massage Oil or Lotion

A suitable massage medium is crucial for a comfortable and effective neck massage. High-quality massage oils or lotions not only reduce friction but also provide nourishment to the skin. Opt for a hypoallergenic product if you have sensitive skin, and consider scented options like lavender or eucalyptus for an added calming effect.

pouring massage oil

Creating a Calming Atmosphere

A serene environment is crucial to relaxation during a neck massage. Dim the lights, play soothing music, and adjust the room temperature to your comfort. Scented candles or essential oil diffusers can further enhance the atmosphere, promoting a sense of tranquility.

Ensuring Proper Body Positioning

Both the person receiving the massage and the therapist should be positioned comfortably. For the recipient, sit or lie down relaxed, ensuring your neck and shoulders are easily accessible to the therapist. Support your head with a pillow or cushion if needed.

Massage Technique 1: Effleurage

What is Effleurage?

Effleurage is a fundamental massage technique characterized by long, sweeping strokes applied to the skin. It is often used at the beginning and end of a massage session to help the recipient relax and prepare for deeper tissue work. Effleurage involves the therapist's hands gliding smoothly over the body's surface, applying gentle to moderate pressure.

How to Perform Effleurage on the Neck

Effleurage on the neck is a gentle and soothing technique that can help alleviate tension and promote relaxation. Here's how it can be performed:

neck massage


Ensure you are comfortably positioned, either lying down or sitting, with proper support for the neck and head. The therapist should have clean hands and use a suitable massage oil or lotion to reduce friction.

Start at the Base

Begin by placing your hands on the recipient's neck at the base, near the shoulders. Your fingers should be spread slightly apart to cover a broader area.

Sweeping Strokes

Apply gentle, gliding strokes with your palms and fingers, moving upward toward the base of the skull. Maintain a continuous, rhythmic motion with consistent pressure. The strokes should be slow and deliberate, with minimal pressure on the neck's sensitive structures.


Continue this effleurage motion for several minutes, gradually working your way up and down the neck. Be attentive to any areas of tension or discomfort, and adjust your pressure accordingly.

Benefits of Effleurage in Neck Pain Relief


Effleurage induces relaxation by soothing the nervous system, reducing stress and anxiety, and promoting a sense of well-being, which can help alleviate neck pain associated with tension and stress.

Improved Circulation

The gentle, flowing strokes of effleurage stimulate blood circulation, which can aid in delivering nutrients and oxygen to the neck muscles, facilitating healing and reducing pain.

Muscle Warm-Up

Effleurage is a warm-up for deeper massage techniques, preparing the neck muscles for more focused work by increasing their suppleness and flexibility.

Pain Reduction

By promoting relaxation and increased circulation, effleurage can help reduce muscle spasms, knots, and overall discomfort in the neck area.

relaxation massage

Massage Technique 2: Petrissage

What is Petrissage?

Petrissage is a massage technique that involves kneading, squeezing, and lifting the body's soft tissues. It is typically applied with the therapist's hands, palms, fingers, and sometimes the thumbs. Petrissage aims to manipulate and manipulate the muscles and deeper tissues, helping to release tension, improve blood circulation, and promote relaxation.

How to Perform Petrissage on the Neck

When performing petrissage on the neck, it's essential to use the right amount of pressure and maintain a slow, controlled pace to ensure safety and effectiveness. Here's a step-by-step guide:


Ensure that the recipient is comfortably positioned, either lying down or sitting, with proper support for the neck and head. Use a suitable massage oil or lotion to reduce friction and enable smooth movements.

Start at the Base

Begin by placing your hands on the recipient's neck at the base, near the shoulders. Your fingers should be spread slightly apart, and your palms should contact the neck's surface.

Kneading Motion

Apply gentle to moderate pressure as you start kneading the neck muscles. Use your fingers and palms to grasp the tissues, then gently lift and squeeze them. Imagine you are kneading dough and mimic that motion with the neck muscles.

Alternate Hands

Use alternating hands to create a continuous, rhythmic kneading motion. You can move up and down the neck, covering the entire area.

Focus on Tension

Pay attention to areas of tension or tightness in the neck muscles. Apply a bit more pressure and spend extra time kneading these areas to encourage relaxation.

Avoid Pressure on Sensitive Structures

Be cautious not to exert too much pressure on the front of the neck, particularly the throat area. Focus your petrissage primarily on the sides and back of the neck where the muscles are more substantial.

Continue as Needed

Perform petrissage on the neck for several minutes or as long as necessary, considering the client's comfort and goals for the massage.

Muscle Relaxation and Improved Blood Circulation

Petrissage offers several benefits when applied to the neck:

Muscle Relaxation

Petrissage's kneading and squeezing motions help release muscle tension and knots, promoting relaxation in the neck muscles. This can particularly benefit individuals experiencing neck pain due to muscle tightness.

Improved Blood Circulation

Petrissage enhances blood flow to the treated area, which can aid in delivering oxygen and nutrients to the neck muscles. Improved circulation also helps remove waste products from the tissues, contributing to overall muscle health.

Stress Reduction

The therapeutic touch of petrissage induces a sense of calm and relaxation, reducing stress and anxiety, which are common contributors to neck pain.

Massage Technique 3: Trigger Point Therapy

Understanding Trigger Points in the Neck

Trigger points are highly localized knots or taut bands of muscle fibres that can develop in muscles throughout the body, including the neck. These points are often sensitive to touch and can cause referred pain, which means discomfort felt in a different area than the actual trigger point. In the neck, trigger points are a common source of tension and pain, often contributing to headaches, neck pain, and even shoulder pain.

Techniques for Identifying Trigger Points


Skilled massage therapists or healthcare professionals use their fingers and thumbs to palpate the neck muscles carefully. They search for areas that feel denser or more tender than the surrounding tissue. Trigger points are often identifiable by their distinct, pea-sized or almond-shaped feel.

Referral Patterns

Trigger points have specific referral patterns, meaning the pain they cause is felt in predictable areas. By understanding these patterns, therapists can identify the likely location of a trigger point based on the client's reported pain.

Pain upon Compression

Applying gentle pressure to suspected trigger points can help confirm their presence. If the client experiences localized pain or discomfort when pressure is applied to a particular area, it may indicate a trigger point.

Applying Pressure to Release Trigger Points

Releasing trigger points in the neck typically involves a combination of massage techniques and self-care. Here's how it's done:

Massage Therapy

A skilled massage therapist will use techniques like deep tissue massage, myofascial release, and trigger point therapy to target and release trigger points in the neck. Pressure is applied gradually and adjusted according to the client's comfort. The therapist works on the trigger point and surrounding muscle tissue to encourage relaxation.

massage therapy

Self-Care Techniques

Clients can also perform self-care to alleviate trigger points in the neck. This may include using a foam roller or a massage ball against a wall to apply gentle pressure to the trigger point. Alternatively, clients can use their fingers to apply pressure to the trigger point while taking deep breaths and relaxing into the discomfort. It's crucial to be cautious and gentle to avoid exacerbating pain.

Heat and Stretching

Heat therapy, such as a warm compress, can help relax tight muscles and prepare them for trigger point release. After applying heat, gentle stretching exercises can be beneficial in further releasing tension in the neck muscles.

Regular Maintenance

Trigger points may redevelop over time, primarily if the underlying factors causing them, such as poor posture or stress, are not addressed. Regular massage therapy sessions and self-care practices can help prevent their recurrence.

Massage Technique 4: Myofascial Release

Explanation of Myofascial Release

Myofascial release is a manual therapy technique that targets the fascia, a connective tissue that surrounds muscles, bones, nerves, and other structures in the body. Fascia can become tight, restricted, or knotted due to various factors such as injury, inflammation, or prolonged poor posture. Myofascial release aims to alleviate pain and improve mobility by releasing these fascial restrictions.

During myofascial release, a therapist applies sustained pressure and stretches to the fascia in a specific manner. This helps to lengthen and release the tight fascia, allowing for improved blood flow, increased range of motion, and reduced pain and discomfort.

Using Hands and Tools for Myofascial Release

Myofascial release can be performed using a therapist's hands, fingers, forearms, and sometimes elbows. Additionally, various tools and aids are often used to enhance the effectiveness of the technique:

Hands-on Techniques

The therapist applies gentle, sustained pressure with their hands, typically using a slow and deliberate approach. They may locate areas of fascial restriction through palpation and then work on those specific areas to release tension.

Massage Balls and Foam Rollers

Clients can use massage balls or foam rollers at home or under the guidance of a therapist. By rolling these tools over specific body areas, they can apply pressure to release fascial restrictions. For the neck, a massage ball or foam roller can be placed under the neck while lying down and gently rolled back and forth to target tight spots.

Cupping Therapy

Cupping involves placing suction cups on the skin to create a vacuum effect. This can help lift and separate the fascia from underlying tissues, promoting blood flow and fascial release. While cupping is often used on larger body areas, it can also be adapted for the neck.

Loosening Fascial Restrictions in the Neck

To target fascial restrictions in the neck using myofascial release techniques, follow these steps:


Begin with a warm compress or a hot shower to relax the neck muscles and prepare the tissue for myofascial release.

Hand Techniques

If working with a therapist, they will use their hands to gently apply pressure and stretch the fascia in the neck area. They will work slowly and methodically, paying attention to areas of tension or discomfort.


You can use a massage ball or foam roller to perform myofascial release at home. Lie down on your back with the tool placed under your neck. Gently roll the device back and forth, pausing on tight or restricted areas. Use controlled, slow movements and adjust the pressure to your comfort level.


Combine myofascial release with gentle neck stretches to loosen fascial restrictions further. Perform slow, controlled stretches in all directions—forward, backward, side-to-side, and rotation.


Staying well-hydrated is essential for maintaining healthy fascia. Drink plenty of water to keep your fascia supple and pliable.

Massage Technique 5: Deep Tissue Massage

What is Deep Tissue Massage?

Deep tissue massage is a therapeutic technique that addresses chronic muscle tension, knots, and adhesions (bands of painful, rigid tissue) in the body's deeper layers of muscle and fascia. It involves applying firm pressure and slow, deliberate strokes to target specific areas of tension. Deep tissue massage aims to release muscle knots, reduce pain, improve range of motion, and promote overall relaxation.

Proper Application of Deep Pressure on Neck Muscles

When applying deep pressure to neck muscles, it's essential to do so with care and precision to avoid causing discomfort or injury. Here's how to properly apply deep pressure on neck muscles:


Begin with a warm compress or a hot shower to relax the neck muscles and prepare them for deep tissue work. Heat helps increase blood flow and makes the muscles more pliable.


The recipient should be comfortably positioned, lying down with their neck adequately supported by a pillow or sitting in a relaxed posture. The therapist should maintain a comfortable position as well to prevent strain.


Effective communication between the therapist and the client is crucial. The client should inform the therapist of their comfort level, any areas of pain, and the pressure they can tolerate. This ensures that the therapist can adjust their techniques accordingly.

Use of Fingers and Forearms

Deep tissue massage often involves using the therapist's fingers, thumbs, and forearms to apply sustained pressure. The therapist should start with gentle pressure and gradually increase it based on the client's feedback.

pressure point massage

Slow, Controlled Strokes

Apply slow, controlled strokes with the fingers or forearms, moving toward the muscle fibres. The therapist should focus on specific areas of tension or knots, working in small sections at a time.

Cross-Fiber Friction

For particularly stubborn knots or adhesions, therapists may use cross-fibre friction, which involves applying transverse pressure against the muscle fibres. This technique helps break down adhesions and release tension.

Breathing and Relaxation

Clients should practice deep breathing and consciously relax into the massage. Tension can hinder the effectiveness of deep tissue work, so relaxation is critical to achieving the desired results.

Breaking Down Knots and Tension

Deep tissue massage effectively breaks down knots and tension in the following ways:

Increased Blood Flow

Deep pressure helps increase blood circulation to the targeted areas, delivering oxygen and nutrients to the muscles and removing waste products.

Softening Tissue

The sustained pressure and slow strokes work to soften and release tight or knotted muscle fibres, allowing them to relax and return to their natural state.

Release of Trigger Points

Deep tissue massage can identify and release trigger points, which are hyperirritable muscle spots that often refer pain to other areas. Releasing trigger points can alleviate referred pain.

Improved Range of Motion

Deep tissue massage can enhance flexibility and improve the range of motion in the neck and surrounding areas by reducing muscle tension and adhesions.

Massage Technique 6: Stretching and Range of Motion

Incorporating Gentle Stretches into the Neck Massage

Incorporating gentle stretches into a neck massage can enhance the therapeutic benefits and promote flexibility and improved mobility. Here's how to do it:


Start the massage with a warm compress or gentle strokes to relax the neck muscles and prepare them for stretching.


Ensure open communication with the client throughout the massage. Ask about any specific areas of tension or discomfort and their range of motion limitations.

Neck Range of Motion Assessment

Before performing stretches:

  1. Assess the client's current range of motion in the neck.

  2. Have them gently turn their head from side to side, tilt it forward and backward, and rotate it.

  3. Note any restrictions or discomfort.

Stretching Techniques

Neck Flexor Stretch: While lying down, gently support the client's head with one hand and use the other to tilt them forward, encouraging a chin-to-chest stretch. Hold for a few seconds and release.

Lateral Neck Stretch: With the client in the same position, gently tilt their head to one side, bringing the ear towards the shoulder. Hold for a few seconds and switch to the other side.

Neck Rotational Stretch: Turn the client's head to one side while keeping their shoulders stable. Hold for a few seconds and repeat on the other side.

Upper Trapezius Stretch: Gently pull the client's head to one side while the opposite shoulder remains stable. This stretches the upper trapezius muscle. Hold for a few seconds and repeat on the other side.

Flow and Integration

Blend these stretches into the massage by transitioning smoothly between stretching and massaging techniques. This creates a comprehensive approach to addressing tension and promoting flexibility.

Encouraging Flexibility and Improved Mobility

Incorporating gentle stretches into a neck massage can have several benefits for flexibility and mobility:

Increased Range of Motion

Stretching helps improve the range of motion in the neck, reducing stiffness and increasing flexibility.

Relief from Muscle Tension

Gentle stretching can help release muscle tension and tightness, making it easier to move the neck without discomfort.

Improved Posture

Enhanced neck mobility can lead to better posture, reducing the risk of future neck pain caused by poor alignment.

Prevention of Muscle Imbalances

Regular stretching as part of a massage routine can help prevent muscle imbalances in the neck, reducing the likelihood of developing chronic pain or discomfort.

Preventing Future Neck Pain Through Stretching

To prevent future neck pain through stretching, encourage clients to incorporate simple neck stretches into their daily routine. These stretches can include:

  • Neck tilts and rotations.

  • Neck flexor and extensor stretches.

  • Gentle side-to-side and front-to-back head nods.

  • Shoulder rolls to release tension in the upper back and neck.

Massage Technique 7: Lymphatic Drainage

The Role of Lymphatic Drainage in Reducing Inflammation

Lymphatic drainage is a therapeutic technique designed to stimulate the lymphatic system's function, which plays a crucial role in the body's immune response and fluid balance. The lymphatic system helps remove waste, toxins, and excess fluid from tissues, reducing inflammation and swelling. Here's how it works:

Fluid Collection

The lymphatic vessels collect excess tissue fluid (lymph) that accumulates around cells. This fluid contains cellular waste, pathogens, and other debris.

Filtering and Cleansing

Lymph nodes filter the lymph to remove harmful substances, such as bacteria and viruses, while immune cells within the lymph nodes work to neutralize threats.

Return to Circulation

The purified lymph is then returned to the bloodstream, helping maintain fluid balance and reducing inflammation and swelling in the affected area.

Techniques for Promoting Lymphatic Flow in the Neck

Lymphatic drainage techniques are gentle and rhythmic, focusing on encouraging the movement of lymphatic fluid. Here are techniques for promoting lymphatic flow in the neck:

Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD)

This technique involves a skilled therapist's light, circular, and rhythmic strokes. MLD is specifically designed to stimulate lymphatic vessels and nodes in the neck and can help reduce swelling and inflammation.

Breathing Exercises

Deep, diaphragmatic breathing can aid lymphatic flow. Encourage clients to take slow, deep breaths during the massage and practice deep breathing exercises regularly to support lymphatic drainage.

Skin Brushing

Dry brushing the skin using a soft brush with gentle strokes toward the lymph nodes can stimulate lymphatic flow. Always brush towards the heart and use light pressure.


Clients can perform self-massage techniques at home to promote lymphatic drainage in the neck. Using gentle, upward strokes from the collarbone towards the base of the neck can help reduce neck swelling.


Adequate hydration is essential for the proper function of the lymphatic system. Encourage clients to drink plenty of water before and after a lymphatic drainage massage.

Reducing Swelling and Discomfort

Lymphatic drainage can be particularly effective in reducing swelling and discomfort in the neck, especially when it's related to conditions like lymphedema or post-surgical swelling.

The benefits include:

Edema Reduction

Lymphatic drainage helps reduce edema (swelling) by promoting the removal of excess fluid and proteins from tissues.

Pain Relief

By reducing swelling and inflammation, lymphatic drainage can alleviate pain and discomfort associated with conditions like lymphedema, post-surgery recovery, or inflammatory responses.

Immune Support

A well-functioning lymphatic system contributes to a robust immune response, helping the body combat infections and illnesses.


Lymphatic drainage aids in removing metabolic waste and toxins from the body, contributing to overall health and well-being.

Aftercare and Self-Care Tips

Recommending Post-Massage Care

After receiving a neck massage, maximizing the benefits and maintaining a pain-free neck with post-massage care is essential. Here are some recommendations:


Drink plenty of water to help flush out toxins and promote overall well-being.


Take some time to relax and rest after the massage to allow the body to absorb the therapeutic effects fully.

Gentle Movements

Perform gentle neck movements and stretches to maintain flexibility and prevent stiffness.

Avoid Overexertion

Don't engage in strenuous activities immediately after the massage, as it can negate the relaxation benefits and potentially lead to muscle strain.

Heat or Ice

Depending on the massage type and individual preferences, you may benefit from applying a heat pack or cold compress to the neck to reduce residual tension or inflammation further.

Exercises and Stretches for Maintaining a Pain-Free Neck

To help maintain a pain-free neck, we recommend specific exercises and stretches that target neck muscles and promote flexibility. These can be incorporated into your daily routine:

Neck Flexor Stretch

Tilt the head forward, bringing the chin toward the chest. Hold for 15-30 seconds, then release. Repeat a few times.

Neck Extensor Stretch

Tilt the head backward, looking up toward the ceiling. Hold for 15-30 seconds, then release. Repeat a few times.

Lateral Neck Stretch

Gently tilt the head to one side, bringing the ear toward the shoulder. Hold for 15-30 seconds, then switch sides. Repeat as needed.

Neck Rotation

Turn the head to one side as if looking over the shoulder. Hold for 15-30 seconds, then turn to the other side. Repeat a few times.

Shoulder Rolls

Perform shoulder rolls forward and backward to release upper back and neck tension.

Lifestyle Changes to Prevent Recurring Neck Pain

To prevent recurring neck pain, consider making the following lifestyle changes:

Maintain Good Posture

Try to maintain proper posture while sitting, standing, and using electronic devices to reduce strain on the neck.

Ergonomic Workspace

If you have a desk job, set up an ergonomic workspace with an adjustable chair, monitor height, and keyboard placement.

Regular Breaks

Take short breaks throughout the day to stretch and move your neck and shoulders.

Stress Management

Stress can contribute to neck pain. Try stress-reduction techniques such as mindfulness, deep breathing, or yoga.

Stay Active

Regular physical activity, including activities promoting neck and upper body strength, can help prevent neck pain.

Proper Pillow and Mattress

Use a supportive pillow and mattress that align with your sleeping preferences and body type.

Limit Screen Time

Reduce screen time and practice good screen ergonomics to prevent "tech neck."


Any of these seven techniques, or a combination of several, will help you relieve and eliminate back pain, whether it was caused by bad posture, trauma or stress. If you work in a job that requires a lot of sitting and looking at a screen all day or have been experiencing issues for a long time, we recommend regular massage therapy for neck pain management, not only to get rid of the symptoms but also to eliminate the root cause.

Neck pain is a, well, pain in the neck and can seriously impact your quality of life. Don't try to shrug it off and hope it will go away on its own, but take active steps toward solving the problem before it becomes too big.

Oceana is a holistic cosmetic boutique in Vaughan, Ontario, with many years of experience in quality massage therapy treatments.

Contact Oceana Holistic to book a consultation and start your journey to be pain-free today.


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