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There?s nothing so relaxing as a massage for tense muscles. For those of us who work in repetitive work like at a desk, or on our feet all day, it can really help to relax the knots that often show up in your back, neck, and calves. But of course, not everyone can afford a full-body massage when they need it.
Fortunately, there are new experimental massages you can perform yourself, using something called ?trigger points.? The theory goes, if you press on the sensitive spots in your soft tissue, you can give yourself what?s known as a ?self-myofascial release.? The techniques involve pressing down on one of these trigger points for five or ten seconds, firmly, with your fingertips or a tennis ball, until you feel a release.
So how to start? This article will talk you through the techniques, trigger points, and benefits.
How does it work?
All mammals have naturally tender spots in their soft tissue. Fascia is a sort of lubricant in your body, binding and protecting the muscles, nerves, blood vessels and organs. When you over-stress your muscles, or injure your body, you can cause tears in the fascia, which causes friction in parts of your body, as the layers of fascia adhere together. Putting pressure on these adhesions releases them.
You can use your fingertips, palms, or even a tennis ball. Foam rollers are less effective, since they cover a wider area. Self-myofascial release is also good for preventing injury, getting rid of day-to-day or workout related muscle pain, increasing blood flow and flexibility, and helping you and your body distress.
How To Perform Self-Massage
So, we?ve all seen the cute scene in the comedies where somebody sits down to a massage, and they are then massaged so vigorously that it actually hurts. It?s funny, and it?s true that real release can sometimes come with a ?good? kind of pain, like when you?ve been on your feet all day, and you finally sit down, and there?s a painful kind of release that feels good at the same time. But a massage isn?t actually supposed to be painful. If it hurts, you?re probably doing it wrong. Here are some tips you might find helpful.
- When you massage your muscles, apply the pressure parallel to your muscle fibers, or rotate the massage points. This will straighten out cramps or knots in the muscle.
- If you?re afraid you can?t find a knot, run your fingers or knuckles along your muscles. Use about half your strength, and you should feel bumps or ridges in the muscles, which are built up if the muscle is worked too hard, and is tightened.
- Don?t overdo it! For SMF, you?ll want to massage each body part 30 seconds to 3 minutes. If it?s still tight, you can try two sessions a day, but don?t overwork the muscle, or try to force anything.
- Like I mentioned before, keep it gentle! That nice, painful, sweet release you get sitting down after a long day is what you?re going for, not a full-body workout.
With all of this in mind, here are some self-massaging techniques to get you through a variety of aches and pains.
Base of Your Skull
Find the two bumpy ridges at the base of your skull. Those are pressure points. Press down with your finger tips. Hold for ten seconds. When you release, work your fingers all the way around the back of your skull, slowly. Try a rotating motion with your fingers. It?s great for headaches, and stress on the neck!
If you struggle with tension headaches or even sinus pains, massaging your face can really help. Again, you?ll want to use your finger tips in a circular motion along the ridges of your face. That means your hairline, cheekbones, eyebrows, and jawline. Even the backs of your ears and earlobes. Massaging your jawline can also help if you suffer from TMJ. Combine this trigger facial massage with a detoxing lymph drainage massage, and you will easily look 5 years younger.
If tiredness behind the eyes is messing with your concentration levels, or causing headaches you can’t shake, a scalp massage will help you feel alert. It?s also supposed to promote hair growth for those of you with thinning follicles. And it?s very easy. Grab your head gently with your fingertips, so that both hands span all the way around, along the scalp, above the hairline. Apply pressure, and move in a circular motion for a minute or two, until you start to feel a release. You might even feel a bit tingly, after!
Your Shoulder Blades and Upper Back
Back pain is especially frustrating. It seems impossible to self-massage your back. But that?s not true. You just need a bit of help to get the job done. Stand against a wall, and place a tennis ball at your back. Moving from side to side and up and down, you should be able to move the ball around the tense muscles in your back. You should avoid the spine, since the tennis ball works as a massager because of the high-tension surface. You should never apply direct pressure to your spine. If the pain is caused more from stooping or hunching, keep the tennis ball between your shoulder blades, rather than your lower back.
Another product of hunching is shoulder and upper arm pains. Your neck, shoulders, and upper back are connected by a group of muscles known as the trapezius. Tension in your neck or back may travel down to your shoulders or upper arms, or vice versa. If you work behind a desk, trapezius pain is a common complaint for which this type of massage can be very effective.
To ease the pressure, spread the four fingers of your right hand and press them against your shoulder, on your back, up to the junction of your neck. Press for ten seconds, and move down the slope of your shoulders for a minute or so, pressing firmly as you go. Do the same on the other side.
You don?t realise it, but your hands carry a lot of tension. To help relieve it, relax your arm, palm up on the top of your thigh. Using the heel of your other hand, push along the forearm, toward your wrist. Do the same across your palm and fingertips, and then your thumb. Keep going for about a minute. Remember, your hands are sensitive. You want to apply enough pressure to feel it, but not enough to hurt yourself.
We all know what it?s like to come home after a long day on your feet. If you want to properly relax, being able to massage the stress from your feet is a great way to unwind. And it?s unbelievably simple. Take a tennis ball, again, and roll it under the entire surface of your foot. Go back and forth a few times, and then switch to the other foot. Just like your hands and scalp, you?ll feel a tingly feeling as the muscle groups release.
The relaxing health benefits of a massage are well-documented. But thanks to trigger points, and a few techniques, you can give yourself a great at-home massage, with just your fingertips or a tennis ball. It?s great for your after-workout chill out, or for relaxing after a long day at work, and it helps repair muscles, and treats chronic headaches. Wherever your tension is, there?s a trigger point that can help, with just the right pressure!
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