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The Most Effective Tools, Tips & Techniques for Self Massage

by Jessica Hegg September 17, 2019 0 Comments

lacrosse ball massage

The benefits of self massage can help almost anyone including athletes, older adults, those recovering from an injury, or anyone who wants to feel their best (and it's a great alternative to professional massage therapy). However, the first step is getting access to the right tools, techniques, and information you need to perform self massage safely and effectively. Take a look at our guide below for everything you need to know about self massage along with the products we recommend for each technique.

Benefits of Self Massage

Self massage is about more than just unwinding after a tough workout or a long day at the office. In fact, it offers a wide range of benefits, some of which may surprise you:

  • Eliminating tension and sore muscle
  • Increased flexibility
  • Pain relief
  • Anxiety reduction
  • Improved circulation
  • Eliminating trigger points
  • Increasing range of motion
  • Speeding up injury rehabilitation
  • Improving posture
  • Injury Prevention

Types of Self Massage

Different types of massages can be used depending on your need. See some of the most common options here.

Self Myofascial Release

Myofascial release massage techniques are supposed to relax contracted muscles, boost circulation, and improve stretch reflexes. It works by activating the connective tissue that runs through all of our muscles, loosening it and making it more flexible. 

Trigger Point

Trigger point massages target knots across the body, which cause tension and can be painful to the touch. Learn more about trigger points in our FAQ section below.

Electro Stimulation (TENS)

Electric stimulation massage delivers a small electric charge to targeted areas of the body via electrodes connected with adhesive pads. These electrical impulses stimulate the body to produce natural pain relievers called endorphins.

Acupressure

Acupressure massages use fingers, elbows, or soft spikes to apply focused pressure to the body. This delivers an effective massage to specified acupressure points. 

When Self Massage is Most Effective

Self massage can offer a wide range of benefits, but it’s important to know when to use it and when to seek other treatment. It is most effective when you are suffering from trigger points or aches and pains that result from exercise, sitting or standing, or other physical activity. Massaging before workouts is also a good idea, as it can make your muscles more flexible and less likely to strain during exercise.

While massage can be used to recover from injuries, it should not be applied to a recent injury. Doing so can damage muscles further, leading to a longer recovery and more severe symptoms.

How Often Should You Self Massage?

The answer depends on the individual, but consistency and moderation is key. Begin with a light daily massage between 30 seconds and five minutes. As long as you don’t encounter any pain or stiffness, increase up to two times per day.

If you exercise, self massage prior to activity can help warm up muscles; while post workout massage can help your muscles recover quicker and relieve soreness.

Talk to your doctor about applying self massage for specific medical conditions.

Self Massage Tools

Learn more about all of the most effective self massage tools available.

Roller Ball

Massage roller balls are a handheld self massage tool made to slide over skin and clothes in circular motions. Ours features an ergonomic grip made of silicone gel to avoid slipping while in use. It’s a good way to get a trigger point massage while on the go, and can be effective for arms, legs, shoulders, hips, and more. Add cold or heat therapy to your roller ball massage with our cold massage ball roller.

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Lacrosse Ball

Try a lacrosse ball set for an effective myofascial massage. The deceptively simple peanut design can be used for a variety of leg, knee, back, neck, and other massage techniques while staying durable for extended use.

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Plantar Fasciitis Ball

For a self massage specialized for treating foot conditions like plantar fasciitis, a foot massage ball is the obvious choice. It also allows you to relieve symptoms of conditions like heel spurs and arch pain without having to bend over. Just grip the wooden handles and roll the ball up and down the sole of your foot. The handles can even be repositioned for versatile use.

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TENS Unit

TENS massagers are some of the most unique self massage tools around as they are able to deliver electric massage at the push of a button. Place reusable electrode pads wherever you need a massage, and choose from 6 different settings and 20 intensity levels.

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Muscle Roller

Despite it’s simple design, our massage roller stick is a highly versatile tool that can be used for myofascial release, trigger point therapy, before or after workouts, and more. Nine grooved rollers slide easily over skin while dual hand grips offer control and comfort. Take it anywhere you need, as its portable design can fit in most bags.

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Foam Roller

For safe full-body massage a foam roller offers a lightweight and portable design that integrates with any floor workout. Commonly used in physical therapy, the high-density foam stays durable over extended use and offers the support needed for a targeted self massage. Use it on any flat surface, at home, at the gym, or wherever you need.

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Massage Cane

The ergonomic hook shape of our massage cane is designed to reach any part of the back, legs, neck, or shoulders without bending or twisting. Eight massage knobs, five massage nodes, and three therapy spikes are perfect for a range of different massage styles, and allow you to target specific areas easily.

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Acupressure Mat

Covered in 5,607 pressure spikes, our acupressure mat lets you release tension by stimulating circulation across the entire body at once. Foam lining offers added support while a half dome pillow targets the neck with 66 acupressure discs of its own. The removable cover is easy to clean, letting you keep your mat fresh for the long term.

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Self Massage Techniques

Try these targeted self massage techniques for each part of the body.

Head

The best thing about a head massage is that it can be performed anywhere in seconds. Start by placing the butt of your palms on your temples. Push the scalp up toward the ceiling and hold for several seconds before releasing. Work in sections around the head, covering the full scalp.

Face

Another simple self massage technique targets all the muscles of the face, and can be good to fight oncoming headaches. Using the tips of your middle and index fingers, trace small circles on your forehead, cheekbones, above the eyebrows, and on the sides of your jaw. Get even more relief by using a smooth cold roller that can be rolled over your cheeks, forehead and jawline.

Hands and Forearms

Help fight carpal tunnel or common cramps from typing and texting with this self massage. Place one arm palm up on your leg while sitting and simply push the heel of your opposite palm down all the way down its length, from elbow to fingertips. Repeat several times and switch arms. TENS massagers are another good way to work hands and forearms, by placing the electrode pads where needed.

Neck and Shoulders

Begin by sitting upright, letting your shoulder blades slouch naturally to the sides. Gently tuck your chin to your chin into your chest and place 2 fingertips into the back of your neck, where they meet the shoulders. Hold for several seconds and relax. Try using a massage cane instead of your fingers to easily pinpoint and provide adequate pressure to hard-to-reach pain points on the back or side of your neck and shoulders.

Back

For larger muscle groups found in the back, try using a foam roller for overall myofascial release. A massage ball is made to target trigger points found in these areas, and can provide a deeper massage. To use, simply place your massage tool between your back and the wall, rolling it side to side as well as up and down. Be sure to provide enough pressure to get a firm massage, and continue for several minutes.

Learn More About Massage for Lower Back Pain

Thighs, Hamstrings, and Glutes

When massaging the legs, it is important to find a massage tool that can provide even pressure to these hard-to-reach areas. A massage roller stickwill make it easy to provide smooth myofascial release the entire surface of the upper leg while a foam roller can work these muscles to release tension and improve flexibility. They are both simple to use, by rolling down the length of the leg in gentle, even motions.

Calves

Runners should pay special attention to their calves, but getting in a good cal massage is a good idea for anybody. With your hands or a massage roller stick, apply pressure to either side of the calf, working from the heel to the knee and moving slowly. You can also rub small circles with your finger tips, applying even pressure on each side of the leg.

Feet

Find a hard or rubber ball, and simply pin it between your foot and the floor, using a chair or other furniture for stability. Roll the ball over the surface of your arch, as well as the heel and toes. Other options include purchasing specially designed textured foot rollers or simply rolling a frozen water bottle under your foot.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Get the answers to some of the most common questions here.

What is a trigger point and how do you know when it releases?

  • Also known as muscle knots, myofascial trigger points are small bumps that may be painful to the touch. They can be found when muscle fibers tense or tighten, and should be managed with self massage techniques.
  • To treat or “release” a trigger point, begin with gentle massage techniques specialized to the area the trigger point is located. 5 to 10 minutes of gentle massage per day is a good place to start. If the trigger point doesn’t subside after two weeks, talk to your physician.

How do massages help anxiety?

  • By helping the body relax, self-massage can help manage the mind’s fight-or-flight response which is overactive in those with anxiety disorders. Massages can also relieve muscle pain and improve overall health, which makes it easier to manage anxiety.

How can a tennis ball be used for trigger points?

  • If you’re just getting started with self massage, one of the cheapest and easiest ways to get started is a simple tennis ball. It’s a good choice for feet, the back, shoulders, and sides.
  • To relieve trigger points with a tennis ball, place the ball between the sore area and the floor, a wall, or other stable surface. The ball focuses the pressure onto your trigger point with enough softness to avoid bruising or other harm.

Massaging with Precaution

With the right tools, techniques, and information, it's easy to get started with self massage. However, if you're dealing with chronic, persistent or worsening pain, we recommend that you work with your doctor or physical therapist to determine the proper treatment and massage techniques for you. 

Jessica Hegg
Jessica Hegg

Jessica Hegg is the content manager and at ViveHealth.com. With vast product knowledge and understanding of individual needs, she aims to share valuable information on making smart buying choices, overcoming obstacles and overall improving the quality of life for others. Avid gym-rat and nutrition enthusiast, she’s interested in all things related to staying active and living healthy lifestyle.



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