Upper Back Massage

Basic sports massage techniques for the upper back and neck which are often used to treat muscular related neck and pack pain.

The following is for information purposes only. We recommend seeking professional advice.

Technique 1: Effleurage

  • These are light stroking techniques applied with the whole of the hand. The aim is to cover a large surface area with light, smooth movements that are not hurried. Pressure can be gradually increased as the massage progresses.
  • Effleurage should be used at the start of any massage to warm the area, spread the oil, acclimatise the athlete and relax the muscles before the deeper techniques.
  • With the hands stroke lightly but firmly upwards from the bottom of the back all the way to the neck.
  • Always stroke upwards towards the heart as this is the direction of blood flow. The other way can damage veins.
  • Then lightly bring the hands down the outside of the back keeping them in contact but do not apply pressure.
  • Repeat the whole movement trying to cover as much of the surface of the back as possible. Repeat this technique for about 3 to 5 minutes, gradually applying deeper pressure on the up strokes.

Technique 2: Petrissage

  • Apply circular kneading movements to the upper back and shoulder area.
  • Aim to cover as much of the area with the hands as possible.
  • Apply for 2 to 5 minutes.

Technique 3: Circular frictions to the upper back

  • With the thumb apply small circular frictions to the thoracic or upper back area in the same way as they were done to the lower back on the previous page.
  • For a deeper massage apply circular frictions with a single thumb each side at a time.

Technique 4: Stripping under the shoulder blade

  • Place one of the clients hands on their lower back so the shoulder blade raises slightly.
  • Place your hand under the front of the shoulder to pull it forwards, raising it further.
  • Using the other thumb apply sustained pressure around and under the scapular or shoulder blade.
  • Repeat this 2 to 5 times.

Technique 5: Stripping the lateral rotators of the shoulder

  • Using the thumb apply sustained pressure to the muscles that rotate the shoulder outwards on the back of the scapular.
  • Start at the inner point (nearest the spine) and work outwards.
  • Repeat 3 to 8 times.

Technique 6: Circular frictions to lateral shoulder rotator muscles

  • The above technique can be adjusted to apply small circular frictions along the length of the muscle.

Technique 7: Stripping the upper trapezius

  • Using the thumb again apply sustained pressure along the length of the upper trapezius muscle.
  • Start at the shoulder and work slowly up the shoulder and into the neck.

Technique 8: Circular frictions to trapezius muscle

  • Apply small circular frictions to the upper trapezius muscle.
  • Reinforce the thumb using the other hand to apply deeper strokes.

Technique 9: Circular frictions to the neck

  • With the finger and thumb of one hand apply small circular frictions to the back of the neck.

Finishing off

  • Any of the above techniques can be repeated or mixed around as required.
  • Finish the massage with petrissage techniques and finally light effleurage as you started with.