Simple self-massage techniques

We all get aches and pains from time to time. Whether it’s from overdoing it during a workout or from poor posture while working from home, many of us are familiar with muscle tightness and aching joints.

Thankfully, holistic therapy can offer some relief when we need a helping hand. Particularly remedial massage, which is effective in preventing and treating muscle injuries and pain. Commonly used to treat back pain, remedial massage uses deep tissue techniques to help remove blockages and damaged cells in the body. This helps to reduce recovery time after injury, and encourage healing.

Of course, there’s no replacing the expertise of a qualified massage therapist. However, when we’re not able to partake in hands-on therapies, there is an alternative – self-massage. It can help you ease muscle tightness, target painful trigger points, and help you to increase your awareness of any developing muscular tension.

It’s also great for your mental well-being – allowing you time to relax, as part of your self-care routine. The best part is, it’s really easy. Many techniques can be performed with your fingers and hands, while others require simple items such as a foam roller.

Let’s explore a few areas of the body and how you can use self-massage techniques.


A good head massage can be extremely relaxing and help to ease tension, says massage therapist Naomi Pegden. “For headaches, massage the temples in a circular motion, massaging the scalp like you’re having a firm hair wash at the hairdressers.”

Try the following technique, taking your time whenever you wash your hair.

Starting at your temples, draw circles with your fingertips. Increase the size and pressure of your circles as you move toward your scalp. Maintain a gentle but steady level of pressure as you move from the front of your scalp to the back. 


Foam rollers are great for self-massage, particularly to help with recovery if you’re active or take part in sports. If you don’t own a foam roller, you can target specific areas by using a small ball, like a tennis ball. When you rest on a painful spot, remain there until you feel the muscle relax. Then move on to another spot.

Back pain is something that most of us will experience at some point, and it can range from niggling feelings to pain that prevents us from going about our daily lives. If you suffer from back pain, Naomi recommends the gluteals (buttock muscles) as a great place to start, as most sciatic and lower back pain can come from that area. 

“Use the ball and either sit on it and roll it around, or lean up against a wall with it between your bottom and the wall.

“Alternatively, another good stretch is to sit in an upright chair and place one ankle on the opposite knee. Try to gently push your raised knee so it is parallel with the floor while keeping your back straight.”

Whether you’re suffering from pain in the lower back, mid-back, or upper back and shoulders, here are nine easy stretches to ease your back pain.


You often won’t realise you’re doing it but it’s common to clench your jaw when stressed, which can lead to soreness or headaches. The next time you’re feeling stressed, anxious, or notice you’re holding a lot of tension in your jaw, give the following technique a try.

Using your fingertips, press up under your cheekbones, starting at the apples of your cheeks. Open and close your mouth as you do this. Do this all the way back along your cheekbones until you reach your ears. 

If you wake up with jaw ache, perhaps from clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth while you sleep, it can be effective to use a jade facial roller to help you with your massage. This will feel lovely and cool, especially if the roller has been kept in the fridge overnight.

Another technique is to place your index fingers in front of your ears with your thumbs resting on or underneath your jawbone. Gently massage this area around your ears in light up and down or circular motions. If it feels good, move towards the back of your ear with your index and middle fingers. Focus on downward motions here, to help with lymphatic drainage.


We can all suffer from achy feet from time to time, whether it’s from being on our feet all day or wearing uncomfortable shoes. Although for some people, a foot massage can be delightful, it’s one of those things that’s a bit like marmite – some people don’t like touching their own feet, let alone having someone else touch them.

A benefit of the following exercise is that no one has to touch your feet – not even you!

Sit down and place a tennis ball under your foot. Roll back and forth from heel to toe, using firm pressure. If you come across a tender area, work the knot by rolling in small circles. To add more pressure, perform this technique while standing.

If you’d like to explore the benefits of massage therapy, visit our dedicated fact sheet. Or, find a verified massage therapist in your local area.

This article was updated on 17/01/23.

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Written by Becky Banham
Becky is the Brand and Social Strategist for Happiful and a writer for Therapy Directory.
Written by Becky Banham
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