A woman sat at her desk with a sore neck

A Beginner's Guide to DIY Massage for Back Pain Relief


Written by fitness expert Chris. Last updated:

It’s been a long day–maybe even a long week or month–and your back is killing you. There have been a million stressors and every one of them seems to have found a spot to settle in on your back, neck, and shoulders. With everything you had to do, it’s a miracle you’re still standing even though you’re tired, hunched, and dragging your feet. Good posture went out the window hours ago compounding the aches and pains in your poor back.

We can’t all go home to our personal masseuse but there is something we can do for ourselves. Welcome to the beginners guide to DIY back massage for pain relief!

Why Does My Back Hurt?

A young woman in her bed suffering with a bad back

There are a myriad of reasons why you’re experiencing this pain. Stress is one reason but the leading reason is simply posture. Whether you’re sitting at a desk, constantly bending over for work, frequently checking your phone, working out at the gym, going on a run, or just trying to relax at the end of a long day, poor posture (in these activities and more) can and will lead to back pain. A bit of DIY massage may help to relieve your back pain.

Before You Begin Your Massage

Before you start your massage, there are a few things you can do to prepare your muscles that will make the massage more enjoyable and effective.

  1. Relax: Make sure you are relaxed. Take a shower or use a heated cloth/pad to warm and loosen your muscles, change into comfortable clothes, and go somewhere without distractions.
  2. Stretch: Gently stretch the areas that are causing you pain and discomfort. There are a variety of stretches that are excellent for targeting specific muscle groups. Whether you’re experiencing pain in your shoulders, neck, upper back, lower back, or entire back… there’s a stretch for that!
  3. Breathe: Before and during your massage, it’s important to always focus on having deep, controlled, breathing.

How to Preform a DIY Back Massage

Now that you’ve prepared yourself to receive a massage, you can begin! Below are three easy techniques to help relieve back pain using DIY massage.

Tennis Ball

A tennis ball can be used to massage your shoulders, upper back, lower back, and everywhere in-between. How to use a tennis ball for your own personal back massage is fairly simple.

  1. Lay on your back or stand against a wall (whatever will keep you most relaxed).
  2. Position the tennis ball so that it is between your back and the wall/floor on the area that is causing pain and discomfort.
  3. Gently press your body against the tennis ball, moving back and forth, up and down, and in circular motions against the ball targeting those sore muscles.
  4. For particularly isolated areas, position the ball directly on the knotted muscle and apply pressure until you can feel relief.
  5. Any given area massaged using the tennis ball should only receive about five minutes of massage.

Foam Roller

A woman massaging her own back with a foam roller

If you’re an athlete that’s experienced tight and sore muscles, chances are that you’ve used or know what a foam roller is. It’s excellent for working out tight muscles from long runs and workouts. It’s also very useful in DIY back massages!

Lay on your back on the floor with the foam roller underneath your lower back.

With your weight resting on the foam roller, gently roll your body over the roller so that it moves up and down your lower back until you feel relief.

Hands and Fingers

  1. Your own hands and fingers are best used to reach the sensitive upper back/shoulder and neck area.
  2. Using the same motions as with the tennis ball, use your fingers to apply pressure to the areas causing pain.
  3. Hold pressure on stubborn spots until you feel relief.
  4. To avoid further muscle tension use your right arm to massage the right side of your shoulders/neck and your left hand for the left.


Remember, so many of the aches and pain we feel in our back can be prevented when we focus on and practice good posture during our daily activities!

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