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You are here: Home arrow Articles arrow Everything else arrow DIY De-stress. A basic guide to massage I (neck and shoulders)


DIY De-stress. A basic guide to massage I (neck and shoulders)

Written my Nell Merionwen

As a downsizer, I know how stressful life can be while trying to live a simple life.

Massage is a simple and effective way of reducing everyday stresses and strains. It can lower the blood pressure and create an all round feeling of calm.

Not only can it have physical benefits, it is also a wonderful way to feel close to a partner, friend or member of the family.

In today's modern society we forget how effective the power of touch can be.

Here is the first of a series of articles upon basic massage. Primarily, concentrating upon the neck and shoulders.

We all carry stress within our shoulders and this can lead to localised pain and stress headaches.


It is essential to use a light oil in massage. This allows the hands to glide smoothly over the skin and assists in locating any knots and snarls within the area.

Almond Oil, Sweet

Sweet Almond Oil is comparatively inexpensive. It is light, almost odourless and its ideal for massage. The sweet almond tree yields its oil through cold pressing.

The oil contains vitamins, A, B1, B2, B6, E (small amount) and a high percentage of unsaturated - fatty acids.

It keeps reasonably well.

It Protects the skin, nourishes the skin and calms eczema irritation.

Note: Bitter almond oil is toxic and not to be used in massage. This toxic oil is better known as cyanide!

Apricot and/or Peach Kernel Oil

Almost identical chemically to sweet almond oil and peach kernel oil and they, therefore, have the same beneficial properties. Apricot and peach kernel oils are a little more expensive as they are not produced in such large quantities. They are particularly light oils which make them ideal for facial massage.

Oil contains vitamins, A, B1, B2, B6, E (small amount) and a high percentage of unsaturated fatty acids.

The oil keeps reasonably well.

It protects the skin, nourishes the skin calms eczema irritation.

Grapeseed Oil

Contains vitamin E, the unsaturated fatty acid linoleic acid (high percentage)

It is a gentle emollient leaving the skin feeling silky without being greasy.

This oil keeps well.

Macadamia Oil

The macadamia nut is grown in New South Wales and Queensland in Australia. The unrefined oil is a golden colour with a sumptuous ‘feel’ to it and a slight aroma. When refined, the oil is pale yellow and has no smell.

It contains palmitoleic acid (high percentage)

It has anti - ageing properties for skin.

It is also a high emollient and is nourishing for dry skin.

It is often used in sun protection preparations and in treatments for sunburn.

This oil is best when not kept too long.

Rose Hip Oil

As this oil comes mainly from wild plants, it is usually an organic oil. A beautiful golden red oil.

It has a high percentage of unsaturated fatty acids.

It is useful for tissue regeneration.

It is effective for scar tissue, wounds, burns, sunburn, eczema, and ageing Skin.

This oil should be as fresh as possible for use.

Safflower Oil

Safflower has been used by man for thousands of years - safflower seeds have been found in 3000 year old Egyptian tombs and the seeds and flowers have been used for centuries as a dye, the flower being orange / yellow.

It contains a high level of polyunsaturated fatty acids.

It benefits circulation, bronchial asthma, painful inflamed joints, sprains, bruises.

Oil does not keep well.

Sesame Oil

A clear, pale yellow oil from cold pressed sesame seed.

It contains sesamol, vitamin E and is rich in many vitamins and minerals.

It benefits dry skin, psoriasis, eczema, and Protects skin from harmful rays from the sun.

This oil keeps particularly well.

Sunflower Oil

The best oil is cold pressed from organically grown plants. It has a pleasant, light texture and it leaves the skin feeling silky and non - greasy.

It contains vitamins A, B, D, and high levels of E. It also has a high percentage of unsaturated fatty acids.

It benefits arteriosclerosis, asthma, leg ulcers, bruises, skin diseases,it is Diuretic, and an expectorant.

The oil keeps extremely well.

Essential oils.

Essential oils can be extremely beneficial to massage. However, they are to be treated with caution. Always buy your oils from a reputable trader and there are unscrupulous traders out there who alter the purity of the oils for profit.

Try to stick to basic oil with little contraindication, such as lavender, tea tree, peppermint and, sweet orange and rosemary. If more unusual oils are desired, I recommend consulting a health care professional as many oils can have undesirable effects in some cases and be down right dangerous effects in extreme cases. Some cases where caution should be used and advice sought are, pregnancy, breastfeeding, high blood pressure, low blood pressure, epilepsy, and cancer. These are just a few of the more obvious contraindications. If in doubt do not use essential oils until you have take professional advice.

For a basic de-stressing massage I can recommend the use of:-

Palma rosa,
Geranium Jasmine,
Ylang ylang.

For insomnia:-

Ylang ylang.

To combat irritability try:-

Clary sage,
Palma rosa,
Ylang ylang.

However, as previously stated, if you are on any medication of suffering from any illness that leaves you in any doubt consult an aromatherapist or even your GP first.

How to do an patch test.

Always do a skin test with "new to you" oils before using. Dilute a small amount and apply it to the skin on your inner arm. Wait for 20 mins or so. Do not use if redness or irritation occurs.


For a neck and shoulder massage you need around 10 mil of base oil. You can use around 4-5 drops of essential oil in this for an adult. In children and the elderly reduce the amount of essential oil by half.

Types of massage strokes, useful in home massage.

Effleurage Strokes

Light gliding strokes.

Rest your hands on the part of the body that you are going to begin massage on. Hands side by side, fingers placed together. Glide your hands smoothly upwards, keeping your hands alongside each other, starting at the base of the spine (or the bottom of the part you are working upon) and glide upward. As you reach the top of the area that you can comfortably stretch your hands to you will need to divide your hands and draw them back down the side of the body to the point where you started. Continue the cycle, keeping the flow at all times.


This sequence is used in order to spread the oil more thoroughly over a larger surface of the area that you are working on. It is also useful to stroke and soothe a wider area that you may not reach while doing the long gliding strokes. Move your hands in fairly wide circles along the body. Let the circles overlap to form a continuous spiral pattern You may use your hands simultaneously or alternately. Let the circles flow into one another.


This movement is generally used when you need to connect a whole area as you prepare to leave it and move on to another area. This movement is also generally used when you need to change the type of stroke that you have just used. Keeping hands and arms relaxed, so that a large surface area can be covered. Using your hands alternatively lightly brush the skin with your fingertips.

Medium Depth Strokes


This movement is suggested on areas such as the hips and thighs of the body. By using the whole of your hand you will grasp and lift a bunch of flesh or muscle in a circular squeezing motion. As one hand releases its hold, the other hand starts to gather a new handful of flesh and muscle. Do not lift the hands off the body while doing this movement. Imagine that you are kneading dough.


This is a firm lifting stroke. It is recommended for the far side of the torso ( the opposite side to where you are working on) and the limbs. Place one hand on the opposite side to where you are working. One hand touching the surface of the couch or table and the other hand above it. Lifting the muscle mass pull up, towards the top of the body with alternative hands, making sure that each time you overlap the place where the last hand was. Before contact is broken start pulling a little further on with your other hand, allowing a flowing movement.


Again this movement is useful in aiding the release of waste products. It also aids the lymphatic and venous circulation. This movement is suggested for limbs and torso. Cup your hands over the back or area that you intend working on. Left hand on the nearest side. Right hand on the far side. Push firmly forward with your left hand and pull back with your right hand. Without stopping or breaking contact change direction and wring the hands back to the opposite side. Move slowly along in the same movement keeping a continuous flow and not breaking contact with the body. Heel of hand and fingers flat down on the skin surface. there are other types of massage strokes, but these tend to be deep tissue stokes and left to a professional.

Once an area has been massaged it is wise to cove it with a clean fluffy towel. This maintains the warmth you have created in the muscle and aids the oil to be absorbed.

Neck and shoulders massage.

Remember massage should never be painful.

Have your partner/friend/victim lay down upon their back. However, this can also be performed while they are sat on a comfortable chair and leaning upon their arms over a table in front of them.

Start with the shoulder opposite to where your partner/friend/victim's head is facing. Glide one hand slowly across the upper back, then along the curve of the shoulder and neck up to the base of the skull and stopping at the hairline. All the time using effleurage gliding strokes to warm the muscle.

Let your other hand follow behind, alternating your hands.

Do this for an appropriate amount of time until your partner/friend/victim begins to feel the benefit.


Place your thumbs on the side of your client's neck - opposite side to where the head is facing. Glide your thumbs along the shoulder, in the channel between bone and muscle, then out towards the shoulder joint. Using a medium pressure in long strokes.

Repeat until the whole area of the top of the shoulder has been worked on.

Let the client change head direction and repeat these two shoulder movements. You may repeat these movements a few more times.


With the ball of your hand run it along the ridges across the middle of the shoulder blade. When you return your hand to the part of the shoulder blade nearest the spine follow the line of the shoulder blade around and under to the muscle beneath the arm. Use a medium pulling stroke upon the muscle. Pulling towards the spine.


Glide the hands back up the back either side of the spine (never massage the spine directly) and follow with the ball of the thumbs up the neck. Smooth down from the neck out and over the shoulders.

Finish off by covering the area in long warm gliding strokes.

Nell Merionwen is a member of downsizer and a professional complementary therapist. To discuss this article please feel free to do so in our friendly forum.

Alternatively feel free to PM Nell directly.