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What are Some Different Self-Massage Techniques?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 04 November 2016
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A variety of massage techniques can be used by people to massage themselves, ranging from the use of classic Swedish-style tapotement to the massage of specific pressure points associated with Eastern massage traditions. The important thing to remember when practicing self-massage techniques is that it is important to be even; if you spend five minutes on one foot, for example, you need to spend five minutes on the other foot, and you should try to use the same basic techniques for both feet. Also, it is a good idea to respond to your body's cues; if you feel like the pressure is too soft or too hard or not quite in the right place, adjust until you are comfortable.

When performing self-massage on any part of the body, it helps to start with some slow, deep breaths and light, flowing strokes along the section of the body that you are massaging. After a few of these strokes, you can start to cup your hand to the shape of the body part you are working on and create more pressure, working your way slowly into the muscle. For deep muscles, you can even use your fist and knuckles as a massage tool. Keep massage motions smooth and even, focusing on moving slowly, rather than trying to get as deep as you can as quickly as possible.

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In addition to flowing massage strokes with your hands, you can also use your fingers as a massage tool. Take two or three fingers and move them in a gentle, circular motion to release tension in a muscle, or apply fingers to a specific pressure point and briefly hold them in place. Lists of pressure points can be found in acupressure books and on acupressure charts; you may find it helpful to hang a chart next to the area you use for self-massage as a reference.

Some people like to conclude a section of brief self-massage with some gentle tapping to stimulate the flow of blood and promote deep relaxation. This can be accomplished with a gentle pounding with the fist, or by tapping the fingers lightly on the skin; after this, it should be possible to go in more deeply with the hand or fingers, as the muscles will be relaxed. At the end of the session, use a few light, flowing strokes like those from the beginning to ease yourself out of the massage.

Some specific areas of the body can benefit from more attention during self-massage. For example, vigorous scalp massage can help to ease tension and stress while providing a burst of energy. It is also a good idea to focus on as much of the neck and shoulders as you can reach, paying special attention to the area around the spine, which should be massaged with gentle, circular motions. For athletes, a coach might be able to provide additional specific self-massage techniques which can be used to keep the body in good shape.

The use of tools can vastly expand your options when it comes to self-massage. Tennis balls in particular are very useful; you can use them to get to the hard to reach sections of your back, for example, and they can be beneficial for your feet. To give yourself a quick foot massage with a tennis ball, place the tennis ball on the floor and roll your bare foot around on it. You can also use tools specifically designed for self-massage, such as wooden rollers and balls, to massage your back and to vary the pressure and sensation of your massage technique on areas which you can reach, such as your arms and legs.

Even 15 minutes of self-massage a day can be quite beneficial, by helping to reduce stress and stimulate circulation in your body. For office workers, it can be nice to set aside a specific break for self massage, as a reminder that self-care is important, even in a busy environment.

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