If you suffer from headaches, a massage can do more than ease sore muscles and relax your body. A 2014 study published in the Journal of Headache and Pain found that headache intensity decreased by 24 percent after a massage. While most of us can’t afford a private masseuse, there are ways to get the kinks out on your own. Paul Ingraham, a Vancouver-based registered massage therapist, shares his at-home neck and back self-massaging tricks.
Relieve the Pain in Your Neck
Since many tension headaches begin with neck pain and stiffness, a neck massage can often provide headache relief.
1. 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).
2. Place your hands behind your head and massage your neck and scalp with your fingertips. Move down and grasp the whole back of your neck with your palm and fingers. Squeeze, first with one hand and then with both hands simultaneously.
3. Place a tennis ball on the ground beneath your neck to target deep muscles in the nape of your neck.
Massage Away Back-Pain
1. 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. (It’s a good idea to repeat wiggle therapy after the massage.)
2. 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; or the top of the buttocks, just below the back dimples.
3. Slowly roll your back over the ball, applying pressure by using your body weight. Control the pressure by letting your arms bear some or most of your weight so you’re comfortable. Most people find it too painful to rest their entire body on a ball.
4. 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.