Health

Learn to give yourself a massage

All you need to reduce tension now is this trio of simple moves and a tennis ball

Who wouldn’t love a massage after a hard day at work? You don’t have to book an appointment and fork over big bucks to get the kinks out. Chatelaine enlisted the help of Paul Ingraham, the Vancouver-based registered massage therapist behind saveyourself.ca. He offers three easy self-massaging tricks for creaky necks, backs and feet.

Pain in the neck

Since many tension headaches begin with neck pain and stiffness, a neck massage can provide headache relief.

To start, roll your head in circles to loosen up your muscles. Next, lie down on a firm, comfortable surface (beds are too soft; try a yoga mat).

Place your hands behind your head and massage your neck and scalp with your fingertips. Move down and grasp the whole back of the neck with your palm and fingers. Squeeze, first with one hand and then both hands simultaneously.

Place a tennis ball on the ground beneath your neck to target deep muscles in the nape of your neck.

The foot rubdown

For those of us who wear heels or stand all day, our feet need extra attention. For greater effect on tired toes, use a heat pad before and after this massage for extra muscle relaxation.

Using a tennis ball, sit in a comfy chair and roll the ball up and down the length of each foot’s arch. For added pressure, stand up, resting one hand against a wall for support. For the most effective ache relief, concentrate on any tense areas by standing on sore spots first. You’ll relieve pressure not only where the knot is but throughout the foot.

For more focussed pressure, try using a smaller ball (a squash ball or golf ball works well). Kneading the arch muscles with your thumb pads is also easy and very soothing.

The back-pain crusher

Before and after this move, loosen up by making 10 to 20 big circles with your hips, with your feet firmly planted on the ground. This type of “wiggle” therapy stretches the muscles and softens the connective tissue.

Lie down on a firm surface, placing a tennis ball beneath your lower back in one of three pressure spots: right under the ribs; the lowest part of the back, just above the pelvis; and the top of the buttocks, just below the back dimples.

Slowly roll your back over the ball, applying pressure using your body weight. Control the pressure by letting your arms bear some or most of your weight so you’re comfortable. The majority of people find it too painful to rest their entire body on a ball.

To make this easier, elevate your legs and feet so you’re putting less pressure on your back. Find a tense area and then gently lower yourself onto the ball. Hold long enough to feel as though the knot is “melting,” which could take anywhere from 30 seconds to a few minutes.

Massage enthusiast
Five wacky looking (but effective) massagers you can use on yourself:

1. The happy company scalp massager
Raise and lower the massager over the scalp to stimulate nerve endings and encourage blood flow. The result? An instant feel-good boost
US$15, happycompany.com

2. Heatable Acuball
Similar to a tennis ball, but with an upshot – it can be heated to soothe sore muscles. The rubber points reach deep tissue when applied with pressure
CDN$30, acuball.com

3. Dr. Scholl’s massaging booties
You can shuffle around the house in these cute booties or turn on the built-in massaging motors when you’re in the mood for a foot rub and the hubby isn’t around
CDN$35, Home Outfitters

4. Body back massage cane
Designed to wrap around the back to hit those hard-to-reach pressure points. Be sure to read the instructions to get the most from this cane; it works wonders once you get comfortable using it
US$40, bodyback.com

5. The Knobble
Many massage therapists swear by this simple yet handy tool, which allows you to apply extra pressure to your most stubborn knots
CDN$21, Alberta Massage Therapy Supplies

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