Living With Chronic Pain

Simple Techniques for a Do-It-Yourself Massage

I used to love getting a massage. But that was before I had back issues. When it didn’t matter if the pressure was too much, the positioning too painful or my muscle spasms too sensitive to allow any intervention.

That’s why doing it myself is such a wonderful option. I choose the force, depth and length. There’s no special equipment, place or time. It can be done anywhere, anytime, for even just a few minutes. In the car at stops, a quick pick me up at work, or a more luxuriant one at home.

With just your hands you can manipulate your own muscles by kneading the skin and applying pressure in certain spots. The addition of a tennis ball or trigger point massager can add benefits as well.

Here are some ways to start your own program today:


Nothing stops the fun like a throbbing headache. Use your hands and try this:

  • Relax. Easy to say, hard to do.
  • Drop your shoulders and open your mouth. That will take the tension away from the jaw where we tend to clench and then recruit our shoulders into the fray. Straighten your neck and back. Find the base of the skull then put your second and third fingers of each hand at this point behind your neck with the tips touching, Apply pressure as you slide the fingers away or move them in small circular motions.
  • Place your thumbs at the jawbone, just above the ear where you can feel the hinge that allows us to open and close the mouth. Then make small circular motions with your finger from the temple up to the top of the forehead until they meet.
  • Stand behind a padded chair, bend forward and rest your forehead on it. Relax into the chair to provide soft pressure for 30 seconds.
  • Grasp hair gently and pull different sections from front to back for 2 to 3 seconds. This stretches along the scalp, relieving tension and providing a great pick me up.


Sinus pressure is miserable. No decongestant, anti histamine or vaporizer around? Try these tricks:

  • Place your fingers on each side of your nose and gently rub outward to the brow line. Then press and rub your fingers beside the bridge of the nose under the eyes and run down the cheeks and outward to the ears.
  • Rub the temples up to the forehead in small circles with your thumbs.
  • Gently place your index and middle fingers over the jaw bone and apply pressure as you open widely and then close your mouth.
  • Add a soothing, scented warm or cold pack.


All day long we stare at screens. Give your eyes a rest every hour with these quick tricks.

  • Quickly rub your hands together and then place the palms over your eyes to warm them up.
  • Take a few minutes each hour to close the eyes and let them rest.
  • Every hour look away from the screen.
  • Add a soothing scented warm or cold pack for a few minutes throughout the day.


Sitting at a desk stating into a computer all day long is a recipe for neck pain. Try this:

  • Again release the tension in your head and neck by opening your mouth and dropping your shoulders. Apply firm pressure with a couple of fingers where the shoulders meet the neck. Keep it up until the muscles start to release. Roll your shoulders back and forth. Then make small circular motions in places where the tension is greatest. First in one direction, then the other. Repeat.
  • Every hour at the computer stop and clasp your hands behind your neck. Using the palms apply pressure to each side of the spine rubbing up and down. Then press into the muscles under the skull with your fingers, tilting the head left to right as you work down to the shoulders.
  • Finish by laying your head back onto the chair and letting the top press into the neck just below the skull for a few seconds. This helps both the front and back of the neck.


Most of us can’t help but hunch over at the desk, in the car, or standing which takes a toll on our shoulders.

  • Position your fingers over and behind the right shoulder. Squeeze the muscle tightly and hold for few seconds, then release.
  • Roll your fingers in small circular motions across the shoulder blade to the base of the neck.
  • Roll your shoulders forward and then backwards slowly.
  • Take your L upper arm in your R hand and pull across your body. Then switch sides. For the anterior shoulders and upper chest put your thumb in the grove just above the collarbone as it hits the front of the shoulder. Apply pressure at different angles in the muscle to release any tightness. A Theracane trigger point massager works great here too.
  • Grab your hands behind your back and raise them as high as you can to stretch both shoulders and upper chest .
  • Give yourself a big hug. Cross arms over your chest and grab your shoulders. Squeeze three times. Then move down the arms with your hands, pressing and releasing to the hands.

Hands and wrists

Inputting data, lifting, pulling, pushing, carrying all stress the hands and wrist. A little loving care can make all the difference.*Place fingers over the wrist as though you’re taking a pulse then apply pressure to either side. In small circular motions from the heel of the palm work your way up each digit from the pinky to the thumb.*Grab the large muscles at the base of the thumb between your fingers and squeeze and knead the muscle working into the palm.*Pull each finger to gently stretch the joints.
Cradle the ends of the fingers with one hand and gently stretch the wrist backwards feeling the stretch in the wrist and palm.Add a tennis ball-*Throughout the day squeeze a tennis ball to relax hand and wrist tension and keep them strong.Next week I’ll discuss ways to soothe aches and pains in your belly, back and lower extremities.

Boost added circulation to the arms and legs

Too often we overlook exhausted arms and legs for more vocal areas of pain. Here’s a way to answer those calls for help.

  • Cross your left arm over your chest and pinch the outer muscle of the upper arm with your thumb and index fingers. Hold to the count of three. Move an inch at a time down the arm until you reach the wrist.
  • Then move back to the top of the arm and pinch an inch of another muscle group until the entire arm is massaged. Repeat on the other arm
  • Move to the thigh and lower legs, one inch at a time, focusing on trouble spots as they become apparent.
  • Hammer out the kinks by gently thumping arms, legs and abdomen morning and night to awaken sleeping muscles in the morning and beat our stress at night. But don’t use this technique if you’re on blood thinners- it could cause bruising.









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