DIY: My top remedy for neck & shoulder pain

Friday, October 12, 2012
Today is world arthritis day. Around this time last year, my doctor told me the shocking news that I - having just turned 31 - was suffering from early stage cervical osteoarthritis. At first I thought she had mixed up my X-rays. I mean seriously - arthritis is what old people have, like 60+ year olds or my grandma, right? 

But then it suddenly kind of made sense to me: this ongoing neck and shoulder pain, occasionally spreading out to my chest, stiffness of joints especially in the mornings - there had to be an underlying cause for these symptoms. One night, I could barely lift my left arm, I was crying because the pain was so excruciating. It was this incident that forced me to do a checkup.

"It will only get worse if you don't start doing something about it immediately!", my doctor warned me. So, how to prevent my neck and shoulder pain from becoming worse?

In short, cervical osteoarthritis is the wear & tear of the cartilage which acts like a cushion between the bones and stops them from rubbing against each other. If damaged, tendons and ligaments become stretched and bones eventually cause friction which leads to severe pain. Long hours of sitting while studying or working in front of the computer, incorrect posture, stress and bad nutrition all contribute to the joint inflammation. 

While there is no real cure (a new spine, anyone?), pain can be greatly reduced and joint mobility can be improved. My doctor suggested the following 'pain management':

  • Daily yoga with exercises that focus on strengthening and stretching the muscles
  • Swimming for 3-4 times per week, ideally in warm water, to help loosening stiff joints
  • Regular massages to get rid of any toxic buildup and to improve circulation

Wait - regular massages?

While massage treatments are relatively inexpensive in Hong Kong - well, depending on which therapy center you go to - there is no way I can afford a massage therapist on a regular basis. That's why I came up with this DIY home spa & self-massage routine which I do daily in the morning once I step out of the shower.

First, I blend my very own, favorite massage oil. Here are the ingredients:

  • Skin / Carrier Oil according to your skin type: My favorite oils at the moment are Coconut Oil because I love the smell and it keeps my skin smooth, and Avocado Oil which I use whenever I have dry patches or feel my skin needs extra vitamins (A, B1, B2)
  • Essential Oils: This is optional as it's not really necessary for the massage oil, but Essential Oils have specific chemical properties that can help treatment. However, if you have no experience with Essential Oils, I strongly recommend to have a professional consultation first or have an aromatherapist blend the oil for you, especially if you suffer from allergies or if you are pregnant. For a neck and shoulder pain remedy, I love to use the following Essential Oils: Rosemary for its pain relieving properties and its smell; Lavender which also eases pain and helps my body and mind to relax; and Grapefruit for its uplifting properties and which is also a stimulant of the lymphatic system reducing aches and stiffness.

Here is how the massage oil is blended with the Essential Oils:

  • 100 ml of skin / carrier oil of your choice with
  • 10 drops of Rosemary Essential Oil 
  • 8 drops of Grapefruit Essential Oil 
  • 4 drops of True Lavender Essential Oil

Here is how I do my self-massage:

After blending, I usually warm up the oil blend by rolling the bottle between my palms before applying it onto my skin. For a simple self-massage of my neck and shoulders, I first rub in the oil and gently apply pressure with my fingertips in a circular motion. Then I cup my hand to squeeze, pull and rub the back of my neck and shoulders for about 10 minutes.

To finish off, I rub some more oil between my hands and just inhale the lovely scent = aaaahhhh!

I'd love to hear your favorite home spa treatment! Do you have stiff muscles or even suffer pain? What's your top remedy?


  1. Great tips on self-massage¡ I would love a grapefruit oil. Indonesia has cheap spas but nothing like the ones in Thailand!!!!

    1. Glad you like it! Yes, Thailand is a spa heaven :) Is it possible to get quality Essential Oils in Indonesia?

  2. The post made me want to get massage... I haven't really done massage for myself, but I can use one on my shoulders right now...

    1. Haha, yeah, try it! It's a great way to start the day :)

  3. what a great idea, must try. Thanks for sharing :) Poor you, don't worry OA is common from general wear and tear. At least you now know, so can keep it under control. Have a good weekend and thanks for leaving a lovely comment on my blog :) x

  4. Great you liked it, Geraldine! True, now that I know about it, I take better care of my body.
    Have a lovely weekend, too!

  5. I’m sorry that you’re experiencing cervical osteoarthritis. Well, if you follow your doctor’s advice, it will at least help ease the pain on your neck & shoulder. Anyway, have you heard of chiropractic? It’s used to treat neuromusculoskeletal problems, like back pains, neck pain, and other joint pains. I think that would help a lot with what you are experiencing right now.

  6. Thanks for visiting, Rhonda! Yes, I've heard of chiropractic; maybe I'll give it a try if it gets worse :)

  7. Hi Susanne! :) It’s nice to know that you’re open about trying chiropractic care. I have a friend who’s also experiencing cervical osteoarthritis and she has been undergoing chiropractic care for months now. I can see how it really helped her to feel better. I was happy because she gladly accepted my recommendation to try it. I hope to you’ll give it a try too. I’m looking forward to hearing your experience about it.

    >Willow Laflamme

  8. I love your blog! I suffered a neck injury a few years ago and still suffer occasional discomfort and pain. I completely agree with what you've advised.

  9. Thanks, Will! Hope you recover soon!

  10. I had neck pain but now I recovered properly with the help of massage. It’s really a helpful treatment to fix the problem.

  11. These remedies you mentioned here are definitely helpful. It could heal shoulder or neck problems instantly. However, not all shoulder or neck pain could be healed this way. Sometimes, when the pain is too unbearable and you feel that it needs deeper treatment, an orthopedic doctor could be the only solution. It is important that you ask first the opinion of the doctor before taking any remedy, particularly when it involves medicine or machine. @ Fort Lauderdale Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine

  12. Shoulder pain is caused by inflammation of the tendons and ice is a natural remedy for inflammation. Ice brings relief by slowing down blood flow to the area. Apply ice to your hurt shoulder for 20 minutes and try to keep it elevated. Visit

  13. Well Explained!!!
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