There are few things more relaxing than a good massage delivered by a professional massage therapist. But massage therapy goes much further than relaxation -- it is also very helpful for stress management and pain relief. Unfortunately, regular massage therapy that is not covered under insurance can quickly become expensive. Learning your own self-massage techniques can provide relief not only for your body, but for your wallet as well.
The benefits of massage therapy
Massage is well-known for reducing tension and promoting relaxation. There are other benefits that aren't as evident, including stimulation of white blood cell production, which can boost immunity, and increased blood flow that can make your mind sharper. In fact, a study done by the University of Miami found that a 15-minute self-massage while at work increased mental acuity and alertness, reports Reader's Digest.
Self-massage is so natural that we do it sometimes without realizing it. If you have ever sat back in your chair and rubbed your tired eyes or squeezed the back of your neck, you're engaging in self-massage. By learning to target these brief, natural massages to certain areas of the body, you can ease aches and pains while lowering your stress levels.
Do-it-yourself therapeutic massage
- The eye-opener: To relieve tired eyes, press your thumbs against the space between your eyes and your eyebrows, at the inside corners. Press down until it feels good, then rub in small circles. Work slowly toward the outside of your eyes and then down around the eye socket, until you reach the bridge of your nose.
- The ball trick: For sore feet, slip off your shoes and press your foot down on a tennis or golf ball. Roll it back and forth, applying firm pressure wherever it feels best. As an added bonus, you can do this underneath your desk at work and nobody will notice.
- The hand holder: Massaging your hands can work wonders for tension relief throughout your body. Simply clasp one hand between the thumb and index finger of the other hand, then massage in a circular motion. Pay close attention to the knuckles and base of your hand. Finish by pulling gently on each finger, one at a time.
- The drumroll: For sore muscles in your legs or arms, form a fist with your hand, then lightly "drum" your fist against your body. You can vary the pressure and intensity until you find what feels good.
- The headache cure: Press your fingertips or thumbs firmly against your temples, massaging in a circular motion. Let your mouth drop open as you do this, to further enhance the relaxation. Gradually massage in small circles toward the top of your head.
- The shoulder squeeze: Curve your hands over your shoulders, then drop your head back. As you do, slide your hands from your shoulders to your neck, squeezing as you go. Then drop your head forward and press firmly against either side of your spine, massaging in circular motions. Finish by dropping your head back and squeezing again.
Though self-massage can be helpful, it doesn't replace the benefits of therapeutic massage from a licensed, seasoned massage therapist. In addition to regular self-massage, make a point of receiving at least occasional massages from an expert, and ask them for more tips on personalized massages you can do yourself.
"Learn the Art of Self Massage," rd.com, Accessed June 4, 2013
"Massage Therapy for Stress Relief and Much More," webmd.com, Accessed June 4, 2013, Susan Seliger
"Self Massage Techniques," runnersworld.com, May 23, 2007, Brian D. Sabin