Top 3 Self Massage Options for Back and Neck Pain

Updated on May 5, 2018
greenmind profile image

I am a writer, teacher, and parent. I have suffered from neck pain for years, and I'm always looking for solutions.

What Is Self-Massage, and How Do You Do It?

My neck and back pain can get out of control sometimes, and I don't have enough money to take myself to a therapist or masseuse whenever I need it. This guide is written from experience, and offers you some ideas for how to use self-massage to attack some of the knots and pressure points that you normally wouldn't be able to reach. Self-massagers like the Theracane and heated Shiatsu pillows are effective and affordable ways to give yourself the back therapy you need without the time and money of going to a professional.

Self-Massage Option 1: A Hook-Style Back Massager (Theracane)

This innovative therapy tool is quickly becoming one of the most popular methods of getting to those impossible-to-reach knots in your back without spending big money on a masseuse or a chiropractor. It looks like something you would use to walk with, but what’s with all the knobs and handles? The one I own, the Theracane, is used to reach every spot on your back and neck. Using the ergonomic design to get leverage and pressure, the Theracane makes it possible to give yourself the best massage short of going to a massage therapist.

The handles and knobs are strategically placed to give you a good grip and to apply pressure to the spot on your back or neck where you need it the most. The Theracane works because it acts as an extension as your own hand or fist.

It’s also virtually indestructible, easy to grip, easy to store, and very affordable. I have given them as gifts throughout the years to the people in my life who also suffer with pain in the back and neck.

You Know What You Like!

The thing I like best about my Theracane is the way I can put pressure on the exact spot without having to communicate it to another person. Even the most intuitive massage therapist can't read my mind. This self massager lets me find the exact spot and apply the exact amount of pressure and movement I need. For self-massage, this tool is really hard to beat.

My Own Neck Pain and How it's Related to Mood

My own story with neck pain begins before I can even remember. Since high school, at least – over 30 years ago – I have had pain in my neck and upper back. Sometimes it’s faint, and sometimes it’s intense, but it’s really always there to some degree. I think there may be many others out there who have neck pain almost all of the time like I do. Sometimes it affects the way I act around other people, like my family. Sometimes I have a short fuse that is due to being tense and in pain, and I feel bad about it. It’s good to have some tools I can turn to to help me feel better.

Chiropracty and Other Healing Methods

Some people swear by their chiropractor, and as far as that goes, what works for them works for them. I ditched my own chiropractor when she started telling me that she would be able to effectively treat my asthma with chiropractic adjustments. I had my doubts about this, and so I asked my MD. He was absolutely clear that she was wrong – if I wanted treatment for connective tissue and muscle pain, then it was reasonable to think that a chiropractor could help. But it was overreaching, he said, to think that manipulating “energy” could effectively change cell pathology or faults in genes or viral infections. For these illnesses, the most effective course, proven by the scientific method, is treatments shown to address the medical issue directly.

Self-Massage Option 2: A Massage Ball

Most of us have tried one of these at one time or another -- it's a good, dependable way to get at those spots that you can't reach otherwise. There are many varieties on the market, from very basic rubber balls to heated, ergonomically designed numbers that cost 5 times as much. I have a small collection of balls like these, and I do use them from time to time for relief. I'm still searching for that perfect version, though -- one that's precisely the right shape and hardness for that spot I'm always trying to get to.

The Kinesthetics of Neck Pain

A study in the Open Orthopaedics Journal, "Chronic Neck Pain: Making the Connection Between Capsular Ligament Laxity and Cervical Instability," discusses the persistent nature of neck pain and the continuing difficulty in finding a "cure." In the meantime, palliative therapies like massage are an affordable option for short-term relief. It's clear that your back and neck are not only full of nerves, muscles, and connective tissues, but they are also in almost constant motion. Even when we’re not in motion, the muscles and nerve fibers in our back and neck are mobilized and active, since they’re a part of our “upper core” that holds everything together. It’s very difficult, if not impossible, to stop using your neck and back muscles. If your arms hurts you can put it in a sling or just not use it, but you are always using your back and neck muscles just to stand upright. For this reason, injuries and pain conditions in these parts of the body can be especially frustrating and difficult to heal.

Unseen Benefits of Controlling Pain

I mentioned how I tend to act when I’m in pain – grouchy – and I know I’m not the only one. A recent article in the San Francisco Gate reported on a Stanford University study that found evidence that chronic pain triggers a series of molecular changes in the brain that may sap patients' motivation. It makes sense to me, and it resonates with my experience of feeling unlovable when my neck pain is flaring. There’s no doubt that finding an effective and affordable way to control your chronic pain is important not just for your own state of mind, but for your connection to those around you. Your loved ones need you, and when you’re in pain you’re less available.

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Self-Massage Option 3: Heated Shiatsu Pillow Massager

My Zyllion pillow massager gives me a completely different experience than either the cane or the ball -- it's more of a soothing rub than a deep-tissue workout. But I love both, depending on where my discomfort level is. It's easier than a Theracane to use, and costs about the same.I'm sure that Shiatsu pillow massagers are all about the same, but this one feels good to me.

What you need to know:

  • Zyllion ZMA13BK Shiatsu Pillow Massager
  • Deep-Kneading Shiatsu Massage
  • Automatically changes direction every minute
  • Heating function can be turned on & off
  • Ergonomic -- fits perfectly behind neck and body
  • Adjustable handle straps
  • SAFE -- equipped with Overheat Protection Device

I Hope You Find Relief!

Those of us who seek relief for chronic pain in the back, neck, and shoulders need options. Self-massage solutions are affordable and easy to use, and offer an alternative to getting a massage. It would be nice to be able to get to a massage therapist every time your back goes out or a shoulder freezes up, but unless you are independently wealthy and have a job that doesn't require you to be somewhere during the day, you’re not going to be on the massage table every time you need a realignment. This article has offered you ways to take care of yourself without spending a lot of time or money. These devices are available for you whenever you need them, and they can give you relief on your own terms.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.


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    • frogyfish profile image


      3 years ago from Central United States of America

      Yours is the first blog I have seen about the Theracane. I have one and agree with your comments regarding its helpfulness. I also have a full massage unit in a chair that is very relaxing, but for pain relief, the Theracane seems to be more helpful.

      Enjoyed reading your article!


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