Massage therapy offers numerous benefits for the body and the mind. Many people suffer from work or home-related stress and tension, muscle pain/soreness/fatigue, joint stiffness or pain, and headaches. A good massage can help with all of these ailments to leave you feeling refreshed, relaxed, and rejuvenated without any equally difficult to manage side-effects that might be seen when turning to painkillers for a solution. Unfortunately, most people do not have the time available or the financial means to have a therapeutic massage every single day.
Fortunately, there are some massage techniques you can use even at home to ease muscle tension and relax your mind. The next time you feel overly stressed or have some physical soreness, consider giving yourself a gentle massage. Here are a few different ways to give yourself a simple massage at home or work, either by yourself or with a partner.
Hands and Arms
To massage your hands and arms is a beneficial and fairly straightforward move. However, it is key to remember to massage your arms in an upward motion. By doing this, you are moving in the direction of your heart. Working in the other direction, towards your hands, could cause blood to pool which could result in muscle spasms, which would not be physically relaxing at all.
As you massage your arms, make long, flowing strokes starting from the wrists and going all the way up to the ball of your shoulder. Continue doing this until your arm starts to feel warm, then switch to massaging in circular motions on your forearms and upper arms.
For your hands, you still want to try and massage in an upward motion towards your wrists, again to help prevent muscle cramps. Start by gently squeezing the palm of your right hand with the palm and fingers of your left hand. Then, you will move onto each of the fingers and thumb – massaging each one in a circular motion (be especially gentle around the joints).
For the back of your hand, you will want to use your thumbs to massage the tendons and muscles, keeping in mind to work in a circular motion and up towards your wrist. Once you have thoroughly massaged your right hand, you can move to the left and do the same procedures.
Like many people, the shoulders are probably where you carry the stress and burdens of your day. You may have also been hunched over a computer all day. If you work a physically demanding job, your shoulders may get strained. Any shoulder tension can travel down into the arms or up the neck and cause further problems such as headaches, muscle spasms, and fatigue. There are shoulder massages you can do at home, by yourself, or with a partner.
If alone, lay your hands over your shoulders and slowly roll your head back. As your head slowly rolls back, slide your hands from your shoulders to your neck. As you do this, gently massage with your hands. Once your head has rolled as far back as comfortably possible, slowly roll it forward. With your hands, press in against your spine, with circular motions. Once your chin is resting on your chest, roll your head back and repeat the initial shoulder/neck massage.
If you have a massage partner available, have them start by placing their hands on your shoulder blades with their thumbs on the upper back and their fingers just to the side of the collar bone. They should make a circular motion with their entire hand, and make focused circles with their thumbs on either side of the backbone. If the tension is really severe, have them use both hands on one shoulder while performing the circular motion.
Your face actually gets quite a workout throughout the day. Not only are you constantly moving your facial muscles to talk and express yourself, but your face is also constantly affected by the environment around you. It gets little protection against the elements because it is exposed.
If you work indoors, you likely sit under harsh fluorescent light while staring at a computer screen. If outdoors, the sun’s UV rays can damage your skin while the humidity (or lack thereof) can also play havoc with your skin’s moisture. The damage incurred only increases as time goes on, meaning more time outdoors will leave your face rather fatigued. Research shows that facial massage will not only help muscle tension but will improve your skin as well.
When you have been going and going, and your facial muscles, especially those around the eyes start to feel weary you can do some simple massage in just a few minutes. First, take your thumbs and place them on the outer bridge of your nose, towards the inside corners of your eyes. Press gently to relieve built-up pressure, and gently massage in a circular motion.
While gently massaging, move your thumbs up and around your eyes, in the space below your eyebrows. Work your way around your eyes, and then down around the outside and bottom of your eye sockets. You will continue massaging and tracing around your eyes, just on top of your cheek bones, working your way over to the bridge of your nose.
If you have a partner, there is a technique the two of you can try. Lie down on your back, probably with your head at the foot of the bed (so your partner can stand over you, above your head). They could start by using their fingertips on your forehead, gently massaging from the hairline down to the eyebrows. Next, they could use their index fingers to work down the bridge of the nose, turning out along the bottom of the cheek bones to the jaw hinge.
Once at the jaw hinges, they could use two or three fingers and massage in a circular motion. Next, use the thumbs to gently press down along the middle of the upper lip, working out towards the corners of the mouth and then to the underside and down to the chin. Finally, they could use two fingers to gently massage your temples in a circular motion.
Stress, or tension headaches are painful and inconvenient. Any anticipatory anxiety will also make the whole thing worse. These kind of headaches have their roots in muscle tension. This tension tends to start in the neck, shoulders, and face. It will eventually begin acting on the muscles and blood vessels around your head, causing the headache. There are a few things you can do at home to soothe away the pain, whether by yourself or with someone else.
If by yourself, sit comfortably in a chair with your back resting comfortably against the back of the chair. Using your thumbs or fingertips, press firmly – yet gently – against your temples. Slowly massage in a circular motion, and slowly let your mouth drop open. Now, while still massaging in small circles, let your fingers or thumbs travel up the side of your head until your hands meet at the top. Then slowly massage back down to your temples.
If with a partner, have them place their palms on your temples (being careful not to press too hard) and gently make a circular motion. They can then spread out their fingers over the top of your head. They can then slowly move their hands up, massaging along the way as if working in shampoo. Once at the top of the head, their hands should slowly drift back down so the palms are again at your temples. Repeat this general series of motions over the entire scalp.
Your back is used for everything including the motions of sitting up straight, standing up straight, leaning over, picking things up (and putting them back down), rotational motion, and reaching. This leaves a lot of room for things to go wrong, or to develop muscle fatigue and aches. Dealing with back pain at home can be difficult, especially if by yourself. However, there are still a few things that you can do, using only a few items you may have around the house.
The first approach can be done with a ball (smaller than a volleyball or basketball). Take the ball and press it up against the wall with your back. Then just roll your back along the ball in both side-to-side and circular motions. This helps to give your back muscles something to work against. For pain or tension in different locations in your back, start with the ball in different places. For some added variety and benefit, use a differently sized ball in the same session.
The second approach can be done with a foam roller. Foam covered hand weights work really well for this purpose. You can also roll up a large towel or blanket instead. Make sure you have enough floor space for this activity, and set the roller on the floor. Then, gently lay down on top of the roller, with it situated so that your shoulders and bottom are both touching the floor. Bend your knees and use your feet to push yourself up and down the roller. Once you find a painful area, concentrate on rolling there for at least twenty seconds.
For back pain or really any physical tension/discomfort that does not remit with these at-home massage techniques, consider consulting with a chiropractor or any other professional. Sometimes it is worth the time and financial resources to seek medical care from a chiropractor or simply treat yourself to a chiropractic therapeutic massage. These professionals may also be able to advise you on your unique physical needs and the ways you might best address them with home remedies.