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7 Self-Massage Techniques to Relieve Upper Back Stiffness

Give yourself a deep tissue massage at home using balls to break up knots, release tension and ease pain in your shoulder muscles.

When I discovered I could give myself a deep tissue massage at home using Yoga Tune Up balls, I was hooked. I knew it would become an essential part of my routine to get rid of tension, recover faster after a workout and improve range of motion.

Yoga Tune Up balls are made for myofascial release by applying pressure to trigger points to break up knots. The balls often come with a tote bag, which can be helpful to keep them from rolling away. Tennis balls or lacrosse balls also work and you can use a sock instead of a tote bag. They are small and lightweight, so you can even bring them with you while you travel.

You can use the Yoga Tune Up balls all over your body — including your neck, cheekbones, upper back, lower back, hips, glutes, legs, hands and feet. One of my favorite spots to focus on is the upper back. Since I work at a computer throughout the week, my shoulders are often tight at the end of the day from hunching forward. Do you experience this too? Massaging the upper back for 15 minutes can significantly reduce pain and stiffness. In the video below, you can try out my go-to rolling moves for the upper back and shoulders.

If you are running tight on time, you can choose any of the movements from the video below:

  1. Trapezius massage at the wall: Stand against the wall with your knees slightly bent. Place one ball between the wall and your upper trapezius muscle. Gently roll the ball along the trap 5-10 times. Then switch sides.

  2. Scapula tracing at the wall: Place one ball just above the top of your scapula (triangular shoulder bone). Begin rolling the ball around the scapula in a triangular motion. Then switch directions.

  3. Trapezius massage on the mat: Lower down to your mat. Place one ball underneath each trapezius muscle. As you inhale, lift your hips, coming into a bridge pose. As you exhale, lower your hips back down. Repeat 5-10 times. Then lower your hips back down and rock side to side, rolling the ball along the traps.

  4. Lift and lower your arms on the mat: Place the balls in the tote bag or a sock to keep them from sliding around. Place the balls horizontally two to three inches from the top of your shoulders. Lower your head on the mat. As you inhale, lift your hands up over your head. As you exhale, lower your hands back down. Repeat 5-10 times.

  5. Snow angels on the mat: Slide the balls down closer to the bottoms of your shoulder blades. Start to sweep your hands in big half circles, making the shape of snow angel wings. Let your arms be heavy, dragging them on the ground. Repeat 5-10 times.

  6. Protract and retract your shoulders on the mat: Keep the balls toward the bottoms of your shoulder blades. Lift your fingers up toward the ceiling. Inhale and lift your shoulders away from the balls. Exhale and lower your shoulders back onto the balls. Repeat 5-10 times. Then give yourself a hug and rock side to side.

  7. Latissimus dorsi massage on the mat: Roll onto your side. Support your head with your hand. Stack your legs on top of each other. Place the balls horizontally on your lats (a few inches underneath your armpit). Contract and release your lat 5-10 times. Then rock forward and back 5-10 times. Make your way onto your other side and repeat.

I recommend starting at the wall so you can control how much pressure you exert. You can progress by laying down on the ground, leaning your full body weight against the pressure point. It can feel pretty uncomfortable, especially the first time you massage a new area (I often make funny faces or even yelp a little when I hit a tender spot).

Remember to breathe deep and back off when you need to. The more frequently you use the balls for massage, the less tension there will be and the less intense it will feel. Consistency is key.

I’d love to hear about your experience! Leave me a comment below and share which massage technique helped release the most tension in your body and which area you want to learn how to massage next. Make sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel for more tutorials.

With gratitude,


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