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Self Massage In The Office

Five ways to relax on the job

massage officeWe have all read that going to a massage therapist can relieve the stress in our bodies, it can help us to rehabilitate faster after an illness or accident, but what happens if your appointment isn’t for a week and your neck hurts? You are in the office and you need some relief NOW! What can you do?

Although self massage is like dancing with yourself…not bad, just different, there are some self-massage routines that you can do in the meantime to ease your discomfort. The effectiveness of these exercises will depend on the degree to which the room is quiet and free from distractions.

Deep Breathing

One of the quickest ways to find relief may be as simple as taking three or four deep breaths. Notice how you are breathing right now. Put one hand on your abdomen and the other on your chest. Which hand raises first when you breathe? If you are like most adults, you breathe in through your mouth and your chest expands first.

If you were to watch a baby you would notice that as they inhale, their stomachs expand and then their chests. It may feel strange at first, but that is only because you haven’t been breathing this way in a long time. You can take deep belly breaths whenever you feel tension in your muscles. Breathing properly increases the amount of oxygen to the brain and helps the circulation of blood.

  • Starting at your head, survey your body and notice where you are feeling tightness or discomfort right now.
  • Place one hand on your abdomen and if you’d like, place the other hand on your chest. The idea is to raise the hand on your abdomen with your breath.
  • Slowly breath in through your nose, filling your abdominal cavity first and then letting your chest expand. Release the air through your mouth, as if you are breathing through a straw, exhaling the air from your chest first and then from your abdomen.
  • As you exhale, feel your shoulders drop. If you experience tightness or discomfort in an area when you exhale, feel that part of your body soften.
  • After you have become accustomed to this deep belly breathing, try holding your breath for four seconds before releasing. And then, let the exhalation take twice as long as the inhalation.

Office Chair Self-Massage

You have probably seen movies with the “Swedish masseuse” beating on the client. This is a form of “tapotement” (tah-POHt-ment), which is a technique using a series of brisk blows; not the kind that you will be doing, but in the same family. The technique involves using your hand and/or fingers. Keeping your wrists loose, perform the stokes rapidly in an alternating hand sequence. In this exercise, you will also use squeezing, kneading strokes called “Petrrisage” (PET-ra-sawje). Ready?

  • Starting at your head, very lightly tap it with your fingertips in what my mom used to call “raindrops.”
  • Continue this fingertip tapping down each side of your neck. If it feels good, you can use one hand and then the other hand to squeeze the neck.
  • As you get to your shoulders, use the opposite hands to work your shoulder. Grasp the muscles of one shoulder in a comfortable grip, squeezing and kneading it. Continue by squeezing down your arm. When you get to the hand, squeeze and rub the palm. The fingers are massaged by rubbing as you “walk” your thumb and forefinger up the finger being massaged. Now do the other shoulder the same way.
  • Move forward in your chair and making a loose fist, tap up your back as far as you can reach. Continue down to the base of the spine and around to the front of your thighs.
  • Using a flat, open hand, continue tapping down and around your calves. If possible, take off your shoes and crossing your leg over your knee, rub your feet.

Relaxation Self-Massage

This is a self-massage technique that helps to relax, especially if it is combined with deep breathing. Some people use this technique to help them fall asleep.

  • Start by closing your eyes, or gazing gently toward the floor.
  • Cross your arms over your chest, next gently and lightly hug yourself. Hold that position for about two minutes, taking two or three deep belly breaths while you hold the position. As the thoughts enter your head, and they most likely will, refrain from continuing the internal discussion. Just let the thoughts pass through without responding with a mental rebuttal or agreement.
  • When you think the two minutes are over, lightly placing your hands on your shoulder. You can keep your arms crossed and rest on opposite shoulders or uncross them and place them on the corresponding shoulder. Again, deep breathe a couple of times and let the thoughts pass.
  • After two minutes, place your fingers on either side of your neck. Left fingers on the left side and right on the right side. Place your hands in whatever position is comfortable for you.
  • Finish by placing your fingers very lightly on the base of your skull. Again, place your hands in whatever position is comfortable for you. Some people, in this position, can actually feel the neck lengthening as the body relaxes away from their fingers. If you can feel this, that’s great. If you can’t, that is fine too, just know that it is happening.
  • Open your eyes and notice the difference you feel in your muscles and spirits.


Used in conjunction with the above self-massage or as a separate technique, many people find visualizations to be helpful and a quiet way to take a relaxation break. Realizing that there is a mind-body connection, then it follows that our thoughts can be used to help us relax.

  • Start by closing your eyes, or gazing gently toward the floor.
  • Imagine that the area of discomfort is an ice cube and imagine that the ice cube is melting. This technique seems to work well if you have a tension headache.
  • Some people relate better to colors. If you do, what color is the area of discomfort? Imagine the color fading or changing.

Quick “Refreshing” Sequence

For quick relief when you have been sitting too long in front of your computer, try these:

  • Start with your head in a centered, neutral and vertical position.
  • Very gently, bring your ear to your shoulder. If is causing you discomfort, you have gone too far, come back toward vertical. Hold that position for a slow count of 10. Return your head to the vertical starting position. Repeat bringing the other ear to the other shoulder. Remember to breathe.
  • Shrug your shoulders until they feel like they are supporting your head and you have lost your neck. Hold this for the count of 5 and then release quickly. Repeat the shrug/release.
  • Imagine that your head is a helium balloon and as it rises, feel your shoulders drop.

You don’t have to be in the office to benefit from these suggestions. When you are driving, you can rub and stretch you neck. When you have been concentrating on a task and find that your shoulders are now up to your ears, you can imagine that your head is a helium balloon. And when you need more oxygen to your brain, you can do deep belly breaths. And to get longer lasting, more precise results, visit a trained Massage Therapis

About Maureen Stott

Maureen Stott is a Licensed Massage Therapist who owns her own practice, Therapeutic Massage Center of Vernon, in Vernon, CT. She is also on the staff and faculty at the Connecticut Center for Massage Therapy (CCMT) in Newington, CT. For more information visit her site.


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