There are few things better than getting a massage. Lying in a darkened room with nothing to do and nowhere to go,
having someone gently ease the tension from your muscles while candles lightly flicker and soft music plays—it’s hard to get closer to heaven than that.
We can’t all go to a professional massage therapist though every time we want. Massages cost money, and they take time—two things that we find ourselves sadly lacking when we are at our most stressed. Even when you can’t get in a massage with a therapist, with a little bit of practice yourself, you can get a lot of benefit from self-massage. Here are four tips to master the DIY massage:
Headaches or migraines can put a damper on any day. There are a lot of reasons why we get headaches, and they can’t all be cured through self-massage, however, many headaches are caused by simple muscular tension. If you can work out the tension in the muscles, you will often find that your pain is diminished or relieved.
So, what muscles can cause headaches? One of the first places you might want to check is the upper trapezius, the large muscles that run along the top of your shoulders. A lot of people carry excess tension in these muscles. The area of the upper ridge of the trapezius just where it meets the side of the neck often hides painful knots and trigger points that lead to headaches.
One way to massage this area is simply to grab the muscle between your fingers and roll it. If massaging a specific spot affects the sensation of the headache, that’s a good indication you’re in the right spot. You can also stretch it by slowly rolling your head in a circle while keeping your shoulders down.
Other places you may want to try to massage to get rid of a headache include the back of the neck just at the base of the skull and the skin of the scalp. Also, try massaging the muscles of the face, especially the temples, the jaw muscles, and the area of the eyebrow ridge.
Using a Foam Roller
Most of the headache areas can be reached with your hands, but what about tension in other areas? A foam
roller can be a great way to massage the hard-to-reach spots. You can lie on your back on the roller and slide back and forth to massage your whole back. You can also lie on your front in order to roll your arms, pecs, abdomen and
the front of your legs. If you sit on the roller and brace yourself behind it with your hands, you can also roll the back of your legs. Many people carry a lot of stress in their legs and glutes, so this can be a great way to both get rid of muscular pain and emotional tension.
Using Lacrosse Balls
The one downside of using a foam roller is that sometimes it doesn’t get as deep as you really want it to. While a foam roller is great for giving a general, light massage, it isn’t nearly as useful for hitting really deep knots and stubborn trigger points. If you want to get really deep pressure in your self-massage, you can’t do much better than owning a pair of lacrosse balls.
Lacrosse balls are made of firm, solid rubber, and they’re available at most sporting goods stores. Once you have lacrosse balls, all you need to do is place a ball under the place where you feel you have a knot, lie or sit on it, and then try to relax.
If you have a lot of tension in your glutes and hamstrings, for example, something that can be very helpful is to sit with a pair of lacrosse balls just under your gluteal crease, or to lie with a ball under in the fleshy part of your buttock.
Sometimes self-massage with lacrosse balls can be pretty intense, so if it’s too painful, don’t force it.
Although it can be great to work out knots, when we’re stressed sometimes what we really need is just to be touched. Simple human touch is one of the great things about massages, and you can enjoy the same thing when you’re massaging yourself. You can try gently scratching your scalp, softly caressing your face, or gently rubbing your neck and shoulders. The more you can tune into the sensations of your hands and of your body, the more your
stress will melt away.
In the course of your day, there are enough people who are demanding and harsh with you, so when you massage yourself, very often it’s best to let yourself just be soft and nurturing.