A chair massage works best if you have a massage chair to work with, but if not, a backwards regular chair and a portable headrest or traveling neck pillow will also work. For a chair massage, the recipient can remain clothed, but long hair should be pulled up to avoid getting pulled or tangled. The person getting the back massage will sit in the chair with their chest against the back of the chair.
Unless the recipient has another request, a chair massage can begin with the shoulders. This is a common area for tension among those who sit at a computer all day for work, according to the Office of Health Education. The shoulders can also become tense and sore due to poor posture. Beginning at the base of the neck, gently squeeze and knead the shoulder muscles, working down each shoulder towards the arm and back up towards the neck again. Repeat this motion two or three times.
Beginning at the base of neck, use your thumbs to gently work circular motions up the back of neck on either side of the spine. Knead the side of neck with the fingers, using more pressure if the recipient wants it. Don’t put direct hard pressure over the spine area of the neck, as this can cause pain or damage. Pay special attention to the areas at the back base of neck and also to the top of neck just below the hairline, as these are common areas for tight muscles.
Starting at the shoulders, work down the back. Percussion is a good massage technique to use in the large muscles of this area. To do this, use the sides or heels of hands to rhythmically tap on the muscles of the back. Whenever you’re giving a massage, always start a technique lightly, as everyone has different tolerances to massage or percussion pressure. You can then use harder pressure if the massage recipient gives the okay. Never use percussion over the spine or in the area of the kidneys, which are located in the low back. Percussion is better for the upper and mid back.
Another good technique for working the back during a chair massage is to apply the hands to the desired area of the back and slowly lean into it, using your own body weight as the pressure. Squeezing and gently pulling the muscles away from the body is also good for relieving stress and muscle tension.