The healing power of self-massage

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There is something inherently healing about the compassionate touch of another human, whether it is the warm greeting of a hug between friends or the gentle, sympathetic and fleeting touch of a stranger when we are feeling alone. It is not surprising that research has revealed that massage can deliver a wide range of therapeutic benefits, from reducing stress levels and minimising the experience of pain to strengthening the immune system and raising the spirits of a person suffering from depression.

While the gift of massage is often provided by one person for the benefit of another, self-massage can also be a valuable skill for relieving one’s own pain or feelings of stress.

It is a sad fact that in this stress-afflicted age, few people receive self-massage advice and so remain unaware of these priceless techniques which can help them achieve greater equilibrium in their lives.

Most people associate massage with heightened levels of relaxation and with the repair and rehabilitation of damaged or overworked muscles. While these are both notable benefits of massage, whether delivered by another person or self-administered, the profound effects of massage do not end there.

Self-massage advice is available to help with the treatment of a wide variety of ailments from headaches to anxiety. Massage has been shown to increase levels of serotonin in the body, helping to alleviate symptoms of depression.

If you are interested in experiencing the effects of self-massage, there are a number of resources both online and in print, including the classic text “The Massage Book” by George Downing, which teaches some very useful self-massage techniques.

However, many techniques are intuitive and you may even have instinctively used them, in one form or another, to alleviate pain. For example, if you experience muscular pain in a specific area, you can try applying firm pressure to that area with the fingers. It may feel uncomfortable, but the pressure could help to relax knots of tense and contracted muscles.

Some areas which are prone to muscular tension are difficult to reach with the hands, which can make applying pressure to them difficult. However, they can benefit from other kinds of pressure. For example, tension in the back can be counteracted by positioning a tennis ball over the tense area of the back and leaning against a wall or lying down on the floor, so that the ball presses into the knotted muscle and helps to relax it. The ball should not be positioned directly over the spine, however as this can be harmful.

A similar technique which people sometimes use to relieve neck pain involves twisting a towel and pressing it against the neck so that the knotted muscles receive pressure from the twisted fabric of the towel.

Whatever self-massage techniques you use, one valuable, but all-too-often overlooked technique that can increase the efficacy of the treatment is visualisation. Breathing in deeply and then releasing the breath while simultaneously picturing the knotted muscle relaxing may sound fanciful, but has been found to be a powerful aid in soothing muscular tension.

Do you have any other self-massage techniques that you’d like to share? Please do let us know.