The Quickest Way to Eliminate Tension

Use these simple hands-on techniques—no massage therapist required.

Photo by JGI/Jamie Grill/Getty Images

Massage doesn’t just feel ahh-mazing. It boosts circulation, improves immunity, and reduces stress hormones, like cortisol, too. Massage therapy isn’t exactly cheap, but fortunately you don’t have to see a professional to reap the benefits. Several of the areas that tend to get the sorest also happen to be the easiest to massage on your own. Here, Denise Delise of New York City’s Exhale Spa, a licensed massage therapist with about two decades of experience, shares the best ways to show four of your knottiest spots a little TLC.


Sit comfortably on a chair. Stretch your neck by putting your right hand on top of your head and slowly guiding your right ear toward your right shoulder. Repeat the stretch on your left side. Place your right fingertips at the base of your skull on the muscle to the right of your spine. (For extra leverage and stability, use your left hand to support your right elbow.) Applying gentle, firm pressure, pull your fingers from your head down to your shoulder. Repeat several times, then switch sides, using your left hand for the left side of your neck.


Shoulder tension often surfaces in the muscles around the scapulas (the chicken wing–like bones protruding from your back). To loosen them, stand with your back about six inches from a wall. Use your left arm to place a tennis ball in the crook of your right scapula. Pin the ball between the wall and your back. Leaning into the ball, slowly bend your knees, lower your body into a comfortable squat, and gently rise to a standing position again. Repeat several times, then sway right to left to get the deep muscles that run between your spine and scapulas. Repeat on your left side.


Sit in a chair or on a bed and put your right foot on top of your left thigh; hold the front of your right ankle with your right hand. Pinch the back of your ankle with your left thumb and forefinger and pull down toward your heel. This relaxes your Achilles tendon, which can get especially tight from wearing high heels, running, or dancing. Next, use your left thumb to make small circles from the bottom of your heel up to the base of each of your toes. Finish by rotating each toe, which helps to replenish the fluid between the joints. Switch and massage your left foot with your right hand.


Use your left thumb and forefinger to squeeze the web between your right thumb and index finger, then make gentle circular motions with your thumb. Make a fist with your left hand and place it in your right palm. Press and push your knuckles from the bottom of your palm up to the base of your fingers. Last, take your left thumb and forefinger and grip the base of your right index finger, pinching as you work your way up to your nail bed. Repeat on each finger and the thumb, then switch hands.

Pro Tip

Use a little lotion or oil (try coconut or olive) to keep your fingers from tugging at your skin.