How to Give a Neck Massage

Two Methods:Giving a Seated MassageGiving a Supine Neck Massage

People who sit at desks or drive for long periods of time often experience a lot of pain in their neck and shoulders. Giving them a neck massage is a great way to relieve that tension. Massages can also improve blood circulation, ease headache pain, improve someone's mood, and give an energy boost.[1] Giving a good neck massage is a wonderful gift, whether to a friend, loved one, or a professional massage client.

Method 1
Giving a Seated Massage

  1. Image titled Give a Neck Massage Step 1
    Place your partner in a comfortable seated position.[2] What's important is that his back can be comfortably straight. You must also be able to access his shoulders and upper back.
    • Use a stool that gives you full access to his back.
    • If you use a chair, make sure the back of the chair is low enough to give you access to the back of his shoulders.
    • If you don't have an appropriate chair or stool available, place a comfortable cushion on the ground. Have your partner sit cross-legged on the ground while you kneel behind him.
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    Use light, long strokes.[3] When we think of massages, most of us immediately think of the Swedish massage. It uses long, gentle motions along the surface of the muscles instead of the intense pressure of a style like the deep tissue massage.
    • When you find tension knots, you can apply focused pressure.
    • For the most part, though, keep the pressure firm but not intense.
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    Warm the muscles up. Rushing into intense massaging before warming up the muscles can cause your partner to tense up even more under your touch. Ease into the massage by using your fingertips to loosen up and prepare the neck and shoulders. This will put him in the frame of mind to relax into the experience.
    • Place the ring, middle, and index fingertips of your hands where the base of your partner's head meets the neck. Apply light but firm pressure.
    • If that feels uncomfortable, use whichever fingertips feel right to you. You might use just index and middle fingers.
    • Slide your fingers down the sides of his neck, sweeping over onto the shoulders.
    • Make sure to apply even pressure throughout, running your fingers over the muscles.
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    Knead your thumbs into the tense muscles. In the previous step, you may have felt hard knots in the muscles. These knots indicate tension, and they need focused pressure from your thumbs.
    • Place your thumbs on the tension knot.
    • Place your other four fingers on each hand on the front of your partner's shoulder to stabilize your thumbs when you apply pressure.
    • Apply firm pressure with your thumbs in a kneading, circular motion to release the tension in the muscles.
    • Do this throughout the shoulder muscles, but especially on tension knots.
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    Glide your fingers up and down the neck. The muscles in the back and sides of the neck also carry a great deal of stress. You will use one hand to warm up the neck muscles for more focused attention.
    • Place your thumb on one side of the neck, and the tips of your other four fingers on the other side of the neck.
    • Apply and maintain firm but gentle pressure.
    • Glide you hand up and down the length of the neck.
    • Move along the width of the neck as well. Glide along the muscles along either sides of the spinal column on the back of the neck. Widen your hand to loosen the muscles on the sides of the neck as well.
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    Pinch along the back of the neck.[4] You want to apply the same focused pressure along the sides of the neck with your thumb. But, you need your other four fingers to stabilize the pressure you're applying with your thumb. Working with both hands at once would force you to wrap your other fingers around the front of the throat. This would cause your partner pain and discomfort. Instead, work with one hand at a time.
    • Stand behind and slightly to his right.
    • Place the thumb of your left hand on the right side of his neck.
    • Wrap your other four fingers around to the left side of his neck to stabilize your thumb's pressure.
    • Just as you did on the shoulders, knead your thumb in circular motions up and down the length of the neck.
    • Focus attention on any tension knots you encounter.
    • When you've finished the right side of your partner's neck, move to stand behind and slightly to the left of him. Repeat the process with your right thumb on the left side of the neck.
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    Glide your hands down the sides of the neck. It can be difficult to massage the sides of the neck without bothering your partner's throat. To do this, you will glide your hand in a downward motion from the top of the neck to the front of the shoulder. Begin on the left side of his body.
    • Place your left hand on his left shoulder to stabilize him.
    • With the fingers on your right hand facing downward, place your thumb on the back of the neck and your remaining fingers on the side of it.
    • Applying pressure, glide your hand in a downward motion.
    • At the end of the motion, your thumb should be on the back of the shoulder and your other fingers should be on the front of the shoulder.
    • Knead your fingers into any tension points you feel.
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    Apply pressure to the outsides of the shoulder blades. Press your fingertips into the shoulder blades and apply firm pressure. Move your hands in a circular, kneading motion to release tension from the muscles in the upper back.
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    Use the heel of your palm between the shoulder blades. Because the spine is in the center of the back, it can be difficult to massage that area. Applying focused pressure to the spine will cause pain. Instead, use your palm to apply broad pressure.
    • Move so you're standing at your partner's side.
    • Place one hand on the front of their shoulder to stabilize him.
    • Place the heel of your palm between his shoulder blades.
    • Apply firm pressure in a long, deliberate stroke from one shoulder blade to the other.
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    Massage just under the collar bone. Although most of the massage focuses on the shoulders, neck, and upper back, a little attention to the upper chest can help relieve neck pain.
    • Standing at your partner's side, place on hand on their back to stabilize him.
    • Use your fingertips to rub firmly in circular motions just under his collar bone.
    • Make sure not to press on the bone itself, as this will cause pain.
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    Massage the upper arms. The arms may seem unrelated to the tension felt in the neck and shoulders, but they’re not. The muscles in the arms, shoulders, and neck all work closely in the movement of the arms. So, relieving tension in the upper arms will also benefit the neck.
    • Place your hands on his shoulders, applying gentle but firm pressure.
    • Maintaining that pressure, run your hands down from the shoulders to his upper arms, then back up. Repeat this a few times.
    • Rub up and down the upper arms, loosening those muscles.
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    Cycle through these motions in an un-patterned manner. If you focus too long on one area with one massaging motion, your partner will grow acclimated to the sensation. Move from muscle group to muscle group and vary your hands' motions to make the experience more pleasurable for him. The less he can predict the sensations, the better the massage will feel.
    • The muscles in the shoulders, neck, back, and arms are closely related. By paying attention to a wide area of muscles instead of the few muscles that may hurt, you are more likely to ease his muscle pain.
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    Use all parts of your hand. Many amateur massagers use their thumbs exclusively when giving massages. While the thumbs are excellent for focused pressure, you can cause pain and discomfort to yourself by over-using them. Instead, use all parts of your hand while giving a massage. Use your thumbs for focused pressure to tension knots.
    • Use your palms to apply light pressure over larger areas of skin and muscle.
    • Use your fingertips for firmer pressure.
    • Use your knuckles on particularly tight muscles.
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    Do not massage your partner's bones. Applying pressure to bones — the spine especially — can cause pain. Apply pressure only to muscles.
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    Continue for as long as necessary. A massage does not have to be long to be effective. A quick five-minute massage can make a world of difference. But, a long massage of half an hour to an hour will make him feel pampered and cared for.

Method 2
Giving a Supine Neck Massage

  1. Image titled Give a Neck Massage Step 9
    Place your partner in the supine position. "Supine" means that he's laying down on his back. Ideally, you can find an elevated surface for him to lay on which allows you to stand or sit in a chair at his head. If he lays on the ground, you’ll have to bend over quite a bit, and this could hurt your back. .
    • Tie long hair back so it doesn’t hang in your partner's face.
    • If he has long hair, sweep it back and over the side of the table or bed so you don’t accidentally pull it during the massage.
    • Ask him to either remove their shirt or to wear a top that exposes his chest from the collarbone up.
    • You should provide a towel or blanket if he's uncomfortable with exposing his chest.
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    Choose a massage oil or lotion. You can sometimes find massage oils at department stores, but if not, they can be purchased online.
    • Some household oils, like coconut oil, also make wonderful massage oils.
    • Olive oil, almond oil, and sesame oil can work well, but they tend to be heavy and thick. Use smaller amounts of these oils for a massage.
    • Make sure your partner doesn't have any nut allergies before using almond or sesame oil.
    • Work the oil or lotion through your hands by rubbing them together. This warms the product up to make it more comfortable for him.
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    Warm up gently. Standing behind his head, place the heels of your palms against the sides of the neck. Use long, gentle Swedish strokes to apply pressure down the neck and over the shoulders.[5]
    • Place your thumbs under the neck and run the inside of your index finger down the length of it. Begin at the ear and work down to where the neck meets the shoulder.
    • Fan the motion out over his shoulders as well. You can use your middle, ring, and pinky fingers on the front of the shoulders.
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    Apply more focused pressure to the neck.[6] Place four fingers ‘’under’’ both sides of the neck. Apply firm pressure, running your fingers from the base of skull to the shoulder.
    • Loosen the muscles further by pulling your fingers up and away from the table or mat. In doing so, his head head should almost be lifted from the surface.
    • Repeat this motion with your fingers all along the length of the neck.
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    Work the neck and shoulders with your thumbs. Lifting your index through pinky fingers in the air, place your thumbs on the sides of the neck, just below the ears. Applying firm pressure, glide your thumbs down the sides of the neck. Slide them over the the shoulders, all the way to the edges where they meet the arms.
    • Use the length of your thumb, not just the tip. This applies diffused pressure rather than focused pressure.
    • Stay away from the exposed front of the throat. Applying pressure there will cause a good deal of pain.
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    Massage the chest. The muscles in the front of the chest work in concert with those in the neck, so it’s important you give them some attention.
    • Place your thumbs lightly against the back of the shoulders.
    • Place your other four fingers along the front of the shoulders.
    • Apply kneading pressure both to the front of the shoulders and to the upper chest, under the collarbone.
    • Make sure not to apply pressure directly to the collarbone, or any bone. This can be very painful.
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    Apply rolling pressure under the neck. Place your index, middle, and ring fingers under both sides of your partner's neck. Beginning up by the ears, apply pressure in a rolling motion away from the head, toward the shoulders.
    • Be firm, but not rough. Your motion might lift his shoulders a little bit off the surface, but he should not be flinching.
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    Focus on each side of the neck. Turn his head to the side to expose the side of his neck to you. Support his head by keeping one hand placed under it. When you’ve finished working one side of the neck, gently turn his head the other way and work the other side.
    • With your free hand, use your fingertips to apply long, firm strokes from the earlobe down to the chest.
    • Use your thumb to knead the side of the neck in small circles.
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    Apply deep tissue pressure to the sides of the neck. Deep tissue techniques can cause pain, so you need to be alert to your partner's reactions while doing this. However, the muscles behind the ears can become very tense, so you must apply more intense pressure there to break up the knots. For this technique, the head should still be turned to the side, with one of your hands cradling it from below.
    • Make a loose fist with your free hand and push the side of your fist into the side of the neck, just behind the ear.
    • Apply intense pressure and move your fist very slowly down the side of your neck. Work your way down to where the neck meets the chest.
    • The intense pressure can be very painful if you move your hand too quickly down the neck, so move at a glacial pace.
    • Be careful to watch for signs of pain. Deep tissue massage, while relaxing in the long run, can be uncomfortable in the moment.
    • Give him a break and have him take deep breaths if he feel pain. Begin again when he's ready.
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    Work your fingertips in circular motions behind the ears. The muscles behind the ear, just below where your head meets your neck, tend to grow quite tense. Return your partner's head to an upright position for this technique, so you can work both sides of the neck at the same time.
    • Place your fingertips on those muscles and apply firm (but not painful) pressure.
    • Move your fingertips in a circular motion to break up the tension in that area.
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    Massage the muscles just above the collarbone. You'll feel a small dent right above the collarbone. Use your fingertips to gently massage the muscles in that area using both circular and kneading motions.


  • If you feel bumps or knots in the neck or shoulders, work them out by slowly kneading them with 1 or 2 fingers until you can no longer feel the bump.


  • Never try to crack the neck or back. A professional should do this.
  • Be very gentle when wrapping your hands around the neck. Do not press down on his or her throat.

Things You'll Need

  • Chair
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  • Bed or mat
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  • Massage oil or lotion
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  • Hands
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Article Info

Categories: Spa Treatments & Massages