How to Give a Good Neck Massage

Physiotherapist doing neck massage to her patient
Neck massages can be helpful for neck pain. (Image: 4774344sean/iStock/Getty Images)

Stress is a common cause of neck and back pain. When we are under stress, we tend to raise our shoulders toward our ears and hunch forward, which puts strain on the back of the neck and the shoulders. The muscles that control the neck and shoulders all originate on the base of the skull and insert either on the head of the humerus, the clavicle, the scapula or the spine, depending on function. A gentle neck massage can reverse and relieve the effects of stress.

Step 1

Clip and file your finger nails to just below your fingertips. The muscles in the neck are small and you will need to use your fingertips on some of the muscles. Trim and file your nails so that you don’t scratch your partner.

Step 2

Adjust the height of the massage table and the chair so that your forearms rest comfortably on the massage table when you are seated.

Step 3

Have your partner lie face up on the massage table. Since you are only massaging the neck, your partner can remain clothed. Sit at the head of the table with your forearms resting on either side of your partner's head.

Step 4

Cup the base of your partner’s skull in your left hand and gently rotate the palm of your left hand toward your face. At the same time, run the palm of your right hand down the back of your partner’s neck and press the heel of your hand into the area where his neck meets his shoulder. If you need more glide, apply a small amount of oil to your hands. Alternate your left and right hands and repeat a minimum of five times.

Step 5

Form both of your hands into loose fists and place each fist on either side of your partner’s neck, near the base of her skull. Rotate your wrists forward as you move your hands down to the tops of her shoulders. Reverse direction and rotate your wrists backward as your hands move back toward the base of her skull. Repeat a minimum of five times.

Step 6

Place the tips of your fingers at the base of your partner’s neck where his neck meets his back. Keep your fingers together, for support, and make circular motions as you move your hands up to the base of his skull. Hook your fingers around the base of his skull and pull, very lightly. Repeat a minimum of five times.

Step 7

Cup the base of your partner’s skull in your left hand and gently rotate her head to the left. Form a loose fist with your right hand and run the knuckles down the right side of her neck and back up, in a loose circular motion. Repeat a minimum of five times and then switch to the left side.

Step 8

Press the heels of both hands into the area where your partner’s neck meets her shoulders. Alternate pressing each hand, like a cat kneading.

Step 9

Place your left hand palm up at the base of your partner’s neck and slide it up to the base of your partner’s skull while rotating your hand toward you. Follow suit with the right hand and keep alternating hands a minimum of five times.

Step 10

Finish the massage by gently placing your hands on your partner's shoulders.

Things You'll Need

  • Nail clippers

  • Nail file

  • Massage table

  • Armless adjustable chair or stool

  • Light massage oil or cream


Start with light pressure then get progressively deeper as your partner relaxes.

Your partner may initially try to "help" you by holding his head up. If you need to lift your partner's head, encourage him to relax by supporting his neck as well.


Do not massage the front of the neck, as this can create a choking sensation.

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