4 Self-Massage Techniques That Can Help You Relax at Home
Working these easy moves into your daily routine is like having a mini home massage every day.
You may think of massages as a once-every-so-often splurge, but this relaxing technique has some major health benefits. “Massage therapy is one of the most effectively, widely used integrative therapies for reducing pain and relieving stress,” according to the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA). You don’t have to book an appointment at the spa or research how much to tip for a massage to enjoy reduced pain and stress—you can DIY a massage at home between professional massages with a few simple moves to keep the benefits going. Paired with stretching exercises, these self-massage techniques can help you feel loose and relaxed even without a spa weekend.
“Traditional massage therapy works by manually manipulating muscle tissue to break up collagen [and] adhesions and realign the tissue to allow the layers to slide against one another unimpeded,” says Pete McCall, an ACE Health and Fitness Expert. The whole-body health benefits of this process include reducing muscle tension, breaking up trigger points that make it more difficult to move, increasing circulation, and improving relaxation, all of which can be achieved at home or at a spa. For DIYers, small ball rolling and foam roller exercises are two great methods for a home massage.
“Self-massage, including pressing and rolling with small balls, can be used on the hand, wrist, forearm, elbow, shoulder, neck and middle back,” according to the AMTA. Any small ball that has a slightly cushioned surface will work. Think a spongy racquet ball or lacrosse ball here, rather than a hard baseball. To get started, try these two DIY massage ball rolling techniques recommended by the AMTA:
1. Finger Ball Roll
Place your right hand flat on a table. Holding the ball in your left hand, press down and slowly roll up and down and in between each finger. Roll in circles or up and down, and then release. Repeat with your left hand flat on the table and use your right hand to roll the ball up and down and in between each finger.
2. Forearm Ball Roll
Place your right hand flat on a table. Use your left hand to roll the ball over your wrist and forearm. Press and roll in circles or in an up and down motion. Do 10 passes, and then release. Repeat by placing your left hand flat and using your right hand to roll your wrist and forearm.
Completing foam roller moves every day is another great way to start your home massage practice.
Through a process known as self-myofascial release (SMR), “a foam roller can help alleviate tension and may help reduce your stress,” says Nicole Simonin, ACE Personal Trainer.
Choosing the right roller for you and your needs is an important first step. If you prefer less pressure during a professional massage, choose a roller with a soft-core. This means you’ll be placing less tension on your muscles. Pick up the foam roller and squeeze it to determine the firmness. McCall says if you’re new to SMR, a softer roller may be more comfortable. Once you have chosen the best roller for you, test it out with some easy rolls.
“Apply pressure to the muscle tissue by slowly rolling along the muscle,” McCall says. “[Move] parallel to the muscle fibers, which are vertical in the larger thigh muscles of the hamstrings, quadriceps, and the smaller calf muscles of the lower legs.”
Once you’ve gotten the hang of rolling with your muscles, try these foam roller self-massage moves.
3. Lower Back Foam Roll
Sit on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, Simonin says. Place the foam roller behind your hips, then lean back onto the foam roller and lift your hips up, keeping your torso off the floor. Straighten your legs slightly to allow the roller to glide underneath your back. Bend your knees to return to starting position. She recommends rolling for 10 passes.
4. Hip Flexor Foam Roll
If you sit a lot during the day, your hips muscles can become tight. To help relax and stretch them, lie on your stomach and place the roller under the lower part of your hips and above the front of your thighs. (You can either be on your hands or elbows.) Shift your body forward towards your arms as the foam roller glides between the front of your thighs and pelvis. Repeat this exercise for ten passes.
Foam rolling can also be used as a pre-exercise warm up and post-exercise cool down. McCall says pre-exercise rolling as a warm up should be limited to two minutes or less per muscle group. For post-workout rolling to help relaxation and recovery, he recommends moving at a slower rate, about one inch per second for a total of about ninety seconds per area. This slower pace offers the most relaxation and lengthening benefits.