Self-massage for your sore spots

I don’t often spring for a massage, but Renaissance Court’s offer of a one-hour massage for $20 was irresistible. Unfortunately, the masseuse was too gentle for my liking, but a tip from her could have ongoing benefit if I’d put it into practice.

She advised self-massage. Do it when you’re watching TV, she suggested, and you won’t even have to set aside extra time.

It makes a lot of sense. The only part of our own bodies we can’t easily reach is the upper and middle back. It turns out there are ways to massage that, too.

“You can often get more relief from self-massage than you can get from a massage therapist,” the website PainScience.com says.

If you search for “self-massage,” you’ll see a lot of suggestions. Below are some compiled from various sources.

You’ll find self-massage products advertised, should you want to spend money, but the suggestions here require only your own hands and things you may have around the house. For balls, tennis, golf, and lacrosse balls are all recommended.

Head and face
• Push the scalp near the temples upward with your palms and hold a few seconds.
• Draw little circles with your fingertips along your hairline, above your eyebrows, and on your cheekbones.
• Press with your fingertips from the apples of your cheeks to your ears. Then press your thumb under your jawbone and pull your fingertips down the side of your face. Grab the chin and pull the skin down.
• Lying on your back, hold a ball in each hand and rest your hands at the base of the skull. Roll your head side to side and up and down.

Neck and shoulders
• Drop your shoulders and slowly tuck your chin to your chest to stretch your neck. Press two or three fingertips into the back of your neck, releasing when the muscle feels more relaxed.
• Starting at the base of the skull, work your fingers in small circles down towards the shoulders. When you feel a knot, massage clockwise and then counter-clockwise.
• Reach across your chest with your right hand, resting the palm on top of the left shoulder. Keep your fingers on your back and press the knuckle of your thumb against the neck muscle as you slowly rotate your head and neck. Keeping your hand in the same place, press between your shoulder blade and spine with your fingertips and rotate your left shoulder blade. Switch arms and repeat on the right side.

Hands and forearms
▪ Hold your arm out, palm up. With the opposite hand, cup under the elbow. Still gripping, flip the arm so the palm faces down. Repeat all down the arm until you reach the wrist.
• Place one arm, palm up, on the thigh. Push the heel of the other palm along the forearm in the direction of the wrist and then over the mound of your thumb. Repeat a few times. Switch hands.

Back
• Press a ball against a wall with your back, or lie on a ball on the floor. Move your body up and down, side to side, and in circular motions, hitting different parts of your back from upper to lower. For variety, you can alternate between a larger and a smaller ball.
• Roll a broom handle or a rolling pin over the lower back, going as high as you can reach.

Abdomen
◦ Stroke the abdomen in circular motions with your fingertips or knead it with your fingers and thumbs.
• Roll a rolling pin or paint roller over the abdomen.

Butt
◦ Sit on the ground with knees bent. Place a ball under one butt cheek, lift the leg on that side, and roll around the ball. Repeat on the other side.

Thighs
• Roll a ball or a broom handle on top of the thighs. When you find a sore spot, rub and knead.
• Using the palm of your hand, make small circles on the thigh, working up from the knee.
• Lean forward and run your elbow along the thigh.

Calf/hamstrings
• Knead along either side of your calf muscles as you flex or point the foot.

Feet
• Roll a ball back and forth from heel to toe, making small circles at any tender points. Repeat with the other foot.

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