backrub3Like any other health and wellness service you use, massage is an investment in living life well. How wonderful it would be to receive a massage daily, along with a shampoo & style and a chiropractic adjustment, right?! Barring the purchase of a winning Powerball ticket, this scenario is unlikely to play out anytime soon.

So . . . if you’re feeling stiff and sore between your monthly massage appointments, what can you do? Easy answer: self-massage.

What’s even easier, you don’t have to take a class-not even a single session-to learn some simple, effective techniques to maintain that tip-top feeling between massages. A great source for self-massage recommendations is “Learn the Art of Self-Massage,” an article based on the book Stealth Health: How to sneak age-defying, disease-fighting habits into your life without really trying.

The article offers a wealth of information. One tip is to “hammer out the kinks” each morning and evening. “Using your fists, gently thump the outside of your body, starting with your legs and arms, working from top to bottom. Then move inward to your torso and thump from bottom to top.” According to the article, this technique is good for strength, circulation and relaxation of nerve endings; but use caution to prevent bruising if you take a blood thinner.

We recommend that you take a look at the link above to read the entire article. The helpful tips continue for three pages for a total of seventeen tips in all, which is far too much info to include in this brief note. Topics range from aiding digestion to relieving foot pain. Several of the suggestions require the use of simple objects such as a tennis ball, a shoebox filled with golf balls, a tube sock filled with uncooked rice, a padded chair, or lavender oil.

Using a foam roller for self-myofascial release

Do you experience muscle tightness or trigger points? You know . . . those sore-to-the-touch knots in your muscles that cry out for a massage? But maybe your next massage isn’t on the schedule until next week. You may want to try a foam roller for self-massage in the meantime.

Foam rollers look something like the “noodles” kids use at the pool, but they’re shorter and thicker than “noodles.” They’re also made of denser foam, especially designed for self-massage. Basically, one uses a foam roller on the floor, utilizing gravity to place pressure on various trigger points, thus releasing them. While a certain amount of strength and coordination is necessary for some uses of the roller, it can be used for many areas of the body.

An excellent source for instruction on foam roller self-massage is the article “What Is a Foam Roller, How Do I Use It, and Why Does It Hurt?” by Jeff Kuhland. The article contains specific directions and explanations, including photos and warnings, but suffice it to say that “foam rolling can assist in breaking up . . . muscle knots, resuming normal blood flow.” Kuhlman states, “By applying pressure to specific points on your body you are able to aid in the recovery of muscles and assist in returning them to normal function.”

While use of the foam roller can be expected to cause some discomfort; in the end, you’ll be feeling better. Before attempting foam rolling, we recommend reading the entire article and heeding Kuhland’s precautions. For example, be careful to avoid pushing too hard, and drink plenty of water to maintain hydration and allow released toxins to be cleansed from your system.

Ice Massage

Now, we know what you’re thinking . . . ice massage? I get a massage for relaxation, and ice massage sounds like anything but relaxing!

Well, have you ever taken a fall? Maybe you lifted something heavy, using the muscles in your back instead of your legs. Or perhaps you’ve experienced a sport injury.

Ice massage is especially useful in the first day or two after straining a muscle in the lower back. If you receive an injury with accompanying back pain, ice massage may just what you need, especially if you are unable to make an appointment with your massage therapist immediately. Applying ice to the affected area can slow the inflammation, reduce swelling, numb soreness and reduce pain spasms, according to the Spine-health website. In fact, “once the cold is removed, the veins overcompensate and dilate and blood rushes into the area. The infusion of blood in the area brings with it the necessary nutrients to help the injured back muscles, ligaments and tendons to heal.”

Ice massage therapy can be done with an ice cube, but you may want to make a larger piece of ice by freezing water in a paper cup. Also, depending on the amount of pain you are experiencing, ice-massage may or may not work as a self-massage technique. In either case, take a look at the link above for complete instructions and precautions. In the meantime, these are the basics from Spine-health:

  • Apply the ice gently and massage in a circular motion.
  • Focus the ice massage therapy on the six-inch area of the back where the pain is felt.
  • Avoid applying the ice massage directly on the bony portion of the spine.
  • Limit the ice massage therapy to about 5 minutes at a time (to avoid an ice burn).
  • Repeat the ice massage two to five times a day.

No matter which self-massage techniques you choose between your regularly scheduled massages, remember: at Body Healing Power, we help your body heal itself naturally.