I don’t know if it’s the new shift of working from home, “tech neck” from looking at my phone, or just carrying a bit of extra stress in my shoulders with the but I have felt a bit of discomfort in my back lately…
As women, we often carry tension in our necks, shoulders, and upper back. While a bit of tension is natural, this can progress into stiffness and pain. Our backs can carry extra stress and strain, especially in our tech-obsessed culture that has us hunch down over our computers and phones.
Despite doing all the little things to counteract the hours I’m on a screen every day (doing yoga, making sure my work desk is ergonomically set, taking stretch breaks, seeing my chiropractor every few months, etc.) I still feel that neck and upper back tension.
It’s mild, but it’s there. And while I used to just live with it because “it could be worse” and it’s “not that bad,” I have almost completely managed it with a few simple DIY massage tools, and I wanted to share those with you today! It turns out there is a solution to that nagging, mild, “always there” neck tension—and it’s as simple as a little daily massage.
The benefits of massage extend far beyond muscle soreness and pain. Data shows that abdominal massage has been correlated with reducing constipation, athletes have shown quicker recoveries and increased performances, and there has been improved symptom management and sleep in patients. It also helps with lymphatic flow and getting water into our fascia, hydrating us from the inside out. There are so many benefits to regular deep tissue work, even if you just do it yourself! Now you may be thinking “but Kate, I have TRIED to dig into my muscles by myself and it just doesn’t work!”
...and friend, that’s where these 9 tools come in. :)
how to DIY massage (it’s easier than you think!)
Trust me, I get it—you can try to use your own hands to dig into your neck, but somehow you can never quuuuuite get the area of tension. I first bought DIY massage tools in my days as a competitive runner—I was so diligent about rolling out and digging into tight muscles after workouts to increase blood flow, speed up recovery, and decrease tightness. And while my speedy running days are behind me, I still prioritize this musculoskeletal habit nearly every day. From my neck to my leggiest all the way to the bottoms of the feet, I am a firm believer in a regular massage practice—and these tools make it a lot easier.
As always, check with your primary care provider or chiropractor to see what they recommend for you and your needs. These are just a few simple items that have worked GREAT for me and I just thought I’d pass ‘em along!
1. If you struggle from holding tension in your neck:
If you have anyyyyy neck tension or tightness, PLEASE get this thing-a-ma-jig. It is magical. I really can’t even put into words how much this simple tool helps alleviate neck and upper shoulder tension.
I have one for at home and one in my desk drawer at work. Trust me, homie—if you spend 2–3 minutes focusing on your neck with this, you will instantly feel more relaxed and less tense. It’s hands down one of my favorite things mentioned in this post.
2. If you have tight shoulders and upper back tightness:
This little contraption is SO great and digging into tight shoulders. The cane-like shape allows you to dig into those hard-to-reach areas on your back and relieve some of that tension. I am obsessed with this thing. (I may or may not have packed it into my carry-on during our most recent vacation…)
3. For tension headaches, jaw tightness, and TMJ probz:
I mean… am I even capable of writing a blog post without mentioning gua sha? Hahahaha I’m honestly obsessed.
While I am usually talking about gua sha for its skin superpowers (reducing wrinkles, decreasing inflammation, promoting blood flow/collagen production, etc.), it is ALSO amazing for relieving facial and neck tension.
We often don’t realize how much tension we hold in our jaws, temples, and neck/chest, and the unique shape and density of the Primally Pure gua sha stone allows you to dig in and smooth over these areas of tightness. (This is theeeeee most relaxing bonus to having gua sha in your evening skincare routine. It feels SO grounding and nice to relieve this facial tension after a long day.)
4. If you like pressure-point massages and really digging into areas of tightness:
Perhaps one of the most simple (and affordable!) recommendations is to get a lacrosse ball for rolling out. The beauty of this little ball is its versatility. You can use it to dig into tight glutes, your lower back, etc. Pretty much anywhere!
Also, a bonus is its small size. This is the thing I would always pack along for my track meets and I still bring it traveling because it’s so small but still allows me to roll out and relieve any tension that emerges.
While I think the other tools listed in this post are better suited for the bigger muscle groups (back, quads, etc.), there is NOTHING better for rolling out the bottom of your foot. I am a HUGE advocate for rolling out the bottom of your feet regularly (I do it daily).
Not only does it relieve the physical tension in your foot, but the feet also have a substantial amount of nerve-endings. Massaging the feet allows you to stimulate these nerve and energy pathways that can help stimulate and balance various areas of the body. My grandpa Sulo, who is 92 (…and still lives independently on a 200-acre farm), says his secret to health and a long life is a daily self foot massage! I mean, I don’t know about you— but I’m trusting Grandpa Sulo on this one. :) Lacrosse ball for the win!
5. For everyday use: full body massage
If you don’t own a foam roller, I don’t know what to tell ya, sis. Game. Changing. Foam rollers allow you to roll out your whoooooole body.
I foam roll for a minute or two every morning to help promote lymphatic flow, decrease swelling, and relax tight muscles. They are simple, foam cylinders that allow you relax tight muscles and get a lovely stretch. The one pictured here is perfect for a gentle everyday full-body massage. It’s simple, but it makes such a difference!
6. For really DIGGING in: full body massage
There are many foam rollers and I have tried a LOT of them. The one I shared above is great for basic, everyday use. I love it and think it is great for musculoskeletal maintenance, but sometimes ya just need a bit more OOMF, ya know?
Which brings me to this—hands down my favorite foam roller. Ever. The unique shape of this foam roller allows you to dig into the curves of the body and reach the deep muscles so well. If you like trigger point massage and deep tissue, this is the one for you.
Note: it is intense. Don’t say I didn’t warn ya. :)
7. If you struggle with back pain and poor posture:
Okay, this one isn’t technically a back massage tool, but I believe it can help you out A LOT if you struggle from back pain. For me personally, I found out a big contributor to my back and neck tension was my poor posture.
I have always struggled with poor posture. While on a cosmetic level improving your posture is amazing (you look taller, more confident, slimmer…), it also can be amazing for your back. With the repeated hunch of bad posture, you are placing unnecessary strain on the back, spine, and tendons.
Sooooo after years of complaining about my chronically bad posture, I decided I wanted to DO something about it...
…but the tricky thing is with improving your posture is that you often don’t realize you are slumped. It’s mindless. It’s subconscious. You are so used to it.
Which is why I invested in this little guy. It’s a little strapped device that helps to pull your shoulders back and keep your posture straight, and it vibrates and alerts you to straighten up whenever your back curves. The buzz is juuuuust annoying enough where you don’t want it to go off so you subsequently fix your posture. :)
I have found myself standing so much straighter even after a few weeks of using this. (I don’t wear it all day—just a few hours during the work day seems to do the trick for me!) I shared this on my Instagram stories the other day and I honestly had at least 75 DMs from you guys wanting to buy it. Apparently a lot of us are looking to improve our posture, and I highly recommend this to do it!
8. If you are a runner, athlete, or fitness lover:
This little massage stick is SO wonderful for rolling out legs. You can use it to target quads, hamstrings, calves… it’s super simple and a great way to increase blood flow and recovery after a hard workout!
9. For an everyday mini massage…
This little guy! LOVE IT. I first saw this little massage tool when I was doing rotations on a pediatric bone marrow transplant unit at the hospital. BMT patients are often in so much pain, but they are prone to bruising/weak skin. Therefore, a typical massage can be too aggressive. Enter: this hand massage tool.
This simple tool provides the most lovely mini massage. It has a cooling effect and is simultaneously gentle while really being able to dig in deep??? I can’t quite describe it, but I love it so much that I bought one for work and home. Highly recommend!
here you have it! 9 tools that you can purchase today to relieve muscle aches, tension, and tightness.
A REMINDER: You don’t need a 60-minute massage appointment that costs $90 to get results—sometimes just spending 5–10 minutes per day with simple, DIY tools like this can do the trick! I recommend investing in 1–3 of these tools that target your specific problem areas and building your own small but mighty at-home massage kit! Relief is just around the corner, friend.