After a long week at work and maybe a little over doing it at the gym, nothing feels quite like a soothing, intense massage from a trained professional. Registered Massage Therapists have the magic touch and get out every kink, knot, or tightness in your body leaving you blissfully relaxed and stress-free. Why can’t you feel like this every day after work, you ask? A good professional massage can’t truly be replaced, but you can give yourself a little pick-me-up during the week with these helpful DIY massage tips from RMT Shelby Stumpf of Shape Fitness in Toronto. Not only can you do these tricks on your own, but you can also have a massage a deux with your partner.
It’s best to try and relax tense muscles before massage out the kinks. So Stumpf suggests hopping in a hot shower to ease and relax your muscles. Then get into some comfy clothes that allow you to move freely — and let’s face it comfy clothes will just help you relax more!
Basic Principles to follow:
Stumpf recommends following these basics when doing a DIY at-home massage.
– Work a general area first before digging in to reach stubborn knots.
– Use lighter pressure in the beginning then progress to deeper.
– Change the contact surface you are using every few minutes so your hands don’t get too fatigued.
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Neck and shoulder: Start by placing your left hand on your left shoulder and right hand on the right shoulder, reach as far back as you can and push down with a moderate pressure, then slowly pull your finger tips foreword; repeat this a few times to get the area warmed up. Using the same hand position take your opposite hand to opposite shoulder, tilt your head away from the sore side, causing a slight stretch, and use the tips of your fingers to press down like playing a piano. This gives you an idea of exactly where the pain is coming from. Once you identify the sore spots, reduce the stretch and press down until the pain subsides. You can repeat this action a few times on either side for various trigger points. When you are finished, or your hands get tired, repeat the warm-up technique to flush out the areas you just worked on.
Lower back: This is an area where you can give your finger tips a break and use other parts of your hand. To warm up the area, place your open hands on either side in between your lower rib cage and your hip bone and slowly rock your hand back and forth and up and down from the fingers tips to the heel of your hand. Once the area feels ready, close your hand into a loose fist and using the back of your knuckles push into the same area a little harder. This is also a great way to find those nasty trigger points. Be slightly more cautious with the lower back as it could be more sensitive than the shoulders.
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Communication is key to enjoying the massage — make sure you are telling your partner when things are feeling good and when things are not. As the massager, start slow and easy and learn your partner’s likes and dislikes. Most people get tired or bored while doing a massage because they run out of things to do — so go slow and try using all the different surfaces of your hands. A good example is slowly rocking your knuckles vertically along the spinal muscles. Or take the heel of your hand and using just your body weight lean in without moving. A lot of the time just simple static pressure, with the right depth, could feel amazing. Another concept to keep in mind is variety. The same technique can be used at different speeds and depths and still feel wonderful. A couple of examples are finger tip stroking from slow to quick, knuckle rocking from light to deep.
Using inanimate objects: Lots of people try using a variety of household items to release stubborn trigger points. Some are fine and safe, others can be painful or even harmful. A good rule of thumb is to stay away from anything that is too pointy and try to stick with soft rounded items. Tennis balls are a good size and work well for IT bands, back and shoulders; golf balls are great for the bottoms of your feet, and a rolling pin is good for hamstrings, quadriceps, and calves. Always start slowly and stop immediately if there is pain.
After using any of the above techniques, be sure to drink lots of water and to stretch out the areas worked on.