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Enjoy a Self-Massage

Learning some simple techniques can make a therapeutic rubdown as close as your fingertips
Written by 
Pamela Newton
Canyon Ranch Reviewer: 
Updated on: 
April 25, 2014

When it comes to relaxing and soothing achy muscles, there are few activities that rival a full-body massage. But engaging in self-massage, while often underestimated, can be just as effective in alleviating tension, increasing circulation and lowering stress levels by applying pressure to key points from head to toe. Learning some simple self-massage techniques that employ the same rubbing and kneading methods you’d benefit from in a professional appointment will allow you to self-soothe at home—or anywhere.  

Whether you want to loosen stiff muscles, relieve your tired feet or diminish that dull ache behind your eyes, try these tips when giving yourself an at-home massage:

How to Prepare

Settle in a relaxing spot. The great thing about self-massage is that you can do it anywhere. However, choosing your favorite chair or spot on the couch can help you unwind and truly enjoy the massage. Turn off the TV, your cell phone and anything else that may disturb you. Lower the lights, spark a scented candle or put on some soft music—whatever makes you feel at ease.

Consider accessories. While you may not always have products on hand (if you’re at work or in the car, for example), incorporating lotion or cream into your self-massage when possible can help pamper and soothe you—especially when you’re working on your hands and feet. Consider options infused with essential oils, like calming cedarwood or jasmine.


How to Self-Massage

Head, Neck & Shoulders

This can be a powerful release if you tend to hold tension in your neck and shoulders.

Start by squeezing the base of your neck with one hand, moving your hand upward, squeezing and releasing as you go. Then, using both hands, move your fingers in a circular motion as you rub the base of your skull, moving down the neck and along each shoulder.

Next, use your fingertips to slowly massage your whole head in small circles, as your thumbs move along the bottom of your scalp where your head meets your neck. Place your hands in your hair (if it’s long enough) with your palms facing down, then interweave your fingers and catch hold of your strands. Gently pull them up away from your scalp.

Hands

Whether daily activities like typing put a strain on your hands or you suffer from occasional arthritic pain, this hand massage is a great way to self-soothe.

Start by rubbing all the fingers of your left hand with your right, moving in a circular motion from the base of the finger to the tip, focusing on the joints. Then, gently pull each finger away from the hand, sliding your grip up from the base of each finger to the tip.

Next, give your palm a massage with your thumb on the palm and your fingers on the back of the hand. In a circular motion, rub the pads of your fingers, the fleshy part between your thumb and wrist, and any other tense or tender points. Switch hands.

Feet

Even if you don’t play tennis, it might be worth investing in a few tennis balls for these at-home massages that help soothe your aching feet.

Start by sitting in a chair and rolling a ball gently beneath each foot. Roll it under the arch of the foot, along the outer edge and under the pads of your toes and your heel. Next, try the same movement standing up, gently applying the weight of your body onto the foot that is on the ball.  

Of course using your hands to give your feet a good rub is also effective. For this, apply pressure on tender areas with your thumbs, working your way up and down the foot. Scented foot lotion (try refreshing peppermint) engages your senses while moisturizing your skin for an enjoyable experience. And because of the acupressure points in your feet, adding pressure to certain areas can help relieve discomfort you may be feeling elsewhere, like in your stomach, shoulders and even your sinuses.

Eyes

This at-home technique can help subdue a mild headache or relieve any strain you may feel from staring at a computer all day.

First, rub your hands together briskly to warm them, then close your eyes and cup your palms over your eye sockets. Breathe for about 10 seconds, letting the warmth and darkness fill the space behind your eyes. Then begin a gentle massage by putting your thumbs under your eyebrows, gradually working them outward in a circular motion around your eyes. Spend a little extra time on your temples, as well as the area where the bridge of your nose meets the ridge of your eyebrows—two tender spots that can be soothed by a few minutes of light pressure.

More: How to Give a Good Massage

About the author 
Pamela Newton is a freelance writer and a certified yoga instructor. She has been practicing and teaching yoga and writing for magazines for more than 10 years. She lives in Brooklyn.