How to Ease Stress and Pain with Self-Massage Techniques

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You can use self-massaging techniques to treat pain in the head, neck, or feet. A tennis ball, foam roller, or even just your hands can be the first step to pain relief.
If you’re feeling tense or sore, massage therapy may help you feel better. It has plenty of physical and mental benefits, including pain relief and relaxation.
Luckily, you don’t always need to see a massage therapist to reap the rewards. For some types of ailments or simply for the joy of it, a self-massage can be beneficial too.
If you’d like to try self-massage for pain relief, here are some of the best and safest self-massage techniques to try at home.

What are self-massage techniques?

What are self-massage techniques?
“Self-massage is using your hands, tools, or objects to work on sore muscles and adhesions instead of seeing a licensed massage therapist or bodywork professional,” explains Elliot Ledley, a massage therapist in New York City.
During a self-massage, you use your hands or other tools to manipulate your own muscles. This involves kneading the skin and applying pressure in certain spots.
Picking up some self-massage techniques can be a useful way to soothe stress and ease pain caused by poor posture or even some chronic conditions.
To get started, you can use one of the common techniques below.
Using your hands to massage the head, neck, or feet
Using your hands is a great way to give yourself a self neck massage, a self foot massage or a self head massage. These areas are all easy to reach and don’t require too much pressure, making them easy to massage with the hands.
Using a foam roller to massage the legs, back and glutes
A foam roller is a useful tool for easing muscle pain in the:
calves
hamstrings
thighs
glutes
lower back
iliotibial (IT) band
Simply position the roller on the floor and place the body over top of it. Then, move the body back and forth over the roller.
Using a tennis ball to massage the shoulders, back, and pectoral muscles
A tennis ball or a golf ball is great for accessing harder-to-reach muscle groups like the shoulders, mid-back, or pectoral muscles. Use the floor or a wall and roll your body over the ball.
Be sure to be extra gentle if using a golf ball. You’ll want to use light pressure due to the hard surface.
Using specially designed self-massage tools
There are a variety of other self-massage tools designed to target specific muscle groups more accurately. These include:
neck and shoulder massagers
massage guns
cold or cryotherapy rollers
back massagers
heated massagers

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What are the benefits of self-massage?

What are the benefits of self-massage?
Self-massage is a simple, convenient way to enjoy the benefits of massage therapy. As a DIY method, it can be done in the comfort of your own home.
Like massage in general, self-massage may help ease:
stress
anxiety
headaches
digestive disorders
muscle strain
muscle tension
pain
When included as part of a comprehensive treatment plan, self-massage might also help manage chronic conditions like fibromyalgia or arthritis. It shouldn’t replace regular medical treatment, though.
Additionally, if you receive professional massages, self-massage may prolong the benefits and provide relief in between sessions.
Benefits of self-massage over a massage therapist
Even though self-massage can be an effective way to ease muscle tension, many people find that it simply doesn’t compare to getting a massage from a professional.
This is because when you give yourself a massage, you need to activate some muscles while trying to relax other muscles. When you receive a massage, the entire body can relax.
Nevertheless, there are some benefits to a self-massage over a professional massage. These include:
Self-massage is less expensive. Self-massage is practically free. While you can buy some tools, you can also perform a self-massage with nothing but your own hands.
You know your own body. Even though professional massage therapists are trained in anatomy, sometimes, you know your own body best. With a self-massage, you can hone in on the areas of your body that are causing you pain.
Self-massage is a great way to stimulate and rejuvenate the body. Massaging the muscles helps to stimulate blood flow and circulation in the body.
Professional massages often don’t resolve tension in the long term. Getting a professional massage can help to ease tension for a few days, but many people find that their pain and discomfort return after a week or two. For most people, getting a weekly massage simply isn’t a feasible option. Learning a few self-massage techniques can help you to ease tension between professional massages.
The best way to keep your body free of tension? Use a mixture of both self-massage and professional massage therapy.
“As a massage therapist, I suggest self-massage and stretching in between appointments,” says Ledley. “Being able to stretch and massage your own body safely can help prevent pain and discomfort.”

What types of pain can self-massage help?

What types of pain can self-massage help?
Self-massage may ease minor types of pain, including pain in the:
head
neck
shoulders
abdomen
upper and lower back
glutes
hips
If your pain is due to a swollen muscle, you may also have nerve pain. This can happen when a muscle presses against a nerve. But by using self-massage to relieve muscle pain, you might reduce nerve pain too.
Below are self-massage techniques for common types of pain.

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1. Self-massage for neck pain
Neck pain is often caused by overuse and poor posture. This can happen from everyday activities, like hunching over a laptop or phone, or reading in bed without adequate neck support.
If your neck feels tight and painful, try this therapeutic self-massage technique. It may also be helpful if you have a knot in your neck.
Steps to follow
Lower your shoulders away from your ears. Straighten your neck and back.
Locate the painful areas on your neck. Press firmly with your fingers.
Gently move your fingers in circular motions. Repeat in the opposite direction.
Continue for 3 to 5 minutes.
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2. Self-massage for headache pain and tension
If you’re experiencing headache pain, a self-massage may help release tension and increase relaxation. This may be particularly useful if your headache is stress-induced.
Here’s one way to do a head massage.
Steps to follow
Lower your shoulders away from your ears. Straighten your neck and back.
Locate the base of your skull. Place the pointer and middle fingers of each hand in the center, fingertips touching.
Apply gentle pressure and slide your fingers outward or downward, moving in the direction that feels best.
Move your fingers in small circular motions. Focus on the tense spots, along with the areas around it.
You can also try this technique on YouTube.
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You can also massage your temples, neck, and shoulders.

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3. Self-massage for constipation relief
Constipation can cause abdominal pain and discomfort. Although constipation can be treated with laxatives, an abdominal self-massage may also help.
This type of massage provides relief by stimulating a bowel movement. It can also reduce bloating, cramps, and abdominal tightness.
To perform a self-massage for constipation follow the steps below.
Steps to follow
Lie down on your back. Place your hands, palms down, on the right side of your lower stomach, near your pelvic bone.
Gently massage in a circular motion, moving up to your ribs.
Continue across your stomach to your left rib bones.
Continue down the left side of your stomach, moving to your pelvic bone.
Massage your belly button for 2 to 3 minutes, moving in a circular motion.
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Drinking more water, eating enough fiber, and exercising regularly can also help ease your constipation.

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4. Self-massage for back pain
Back pain is a very common condition. It can have many causes, including but not limited to:
muscle strains or spasms
nerve irritation
disc damage
structural issues
Gentle forms of exercise, like walking, yoga, or specific types of stretches may help ease back pain.
Over-the-counter pain relievers, and using heating pads or cold compresses on your back may help. Massage may also offer some relief, including self-massage.
Here are two techniques to try for back pain:
Lower back self-massage
This self massage for lower back pain works well for massaging your lower back. You don’t need any equipment.
Steps to follow
Sit on the floor with your legs crossed. Straighten your back.
Place your thumbs on each side of your sacrum, the flat triangular bone at the bottom of your spine.
Move your thumbs in small circular motions, moving up and down your sacrum.
Apply pressure on any tense spots. Pause, then release.
Continue as necessary, and remember to breathe deeply.
You can also try this technique on YouTube.
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Alternatively, you can try doing this massage in a chair. Be sure to plant your feet on the floor and to sit up straight.
Tennis ball self-massage
You can also massage your back by lying on top of a tennis ball. The firm pressure of the ball can relieve tension in your back.
Steps to follow
Lie on the floor on your back, with your knees bent.
Place the tennis ball directly under the tense spot in your back. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds.
To add more pressure, gently rotate your body to lean on the tennis ball. You can also cross one ankle over the opposite knee to increase the pressure.
You can also try this video on YouTube.
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When you’re done, roll away from the ball, then get up. Rolling onto the ball could cause more pain.

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5. Self-massage for foot pain
The feet can sometimes become sore due to uncomfortable shoes, overexertion, or conditions like arthritis and tendinitis.
This tension can be relieved at home with a few simple techniques.
“When self-massaging your feet, there’s no better way than using a ball on the ground and rolling your foot over it,” says Ledley. “All you need to do is roll it around and put some pressure in areas that feel a little tender, but it should not hurt.”
Self foot massage with a ball
This self-massage for the feet will ease tension and pain in the heel, arches, and ball of the foot.
Steps to follow
Place a tennis or golf ball on the floor.
Balancing on one foot or sitting, place the other foot over the ball.
Roll the foot back and forth over the ball, adding more weight to the ball if it feels good.
Continue for 3-5 minutes.
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Self foot massage with your hands
You can also give your feet a massage with your hands.
Steps to follow
Hold your foot in your hands.
Using your thumbs, rub in circles around the heel. Repeat 3-5 times.
Rub in a straight line from the heel to the ball of the foot to ease pain in the arches. Repeat 3-5 times.
Rub your thumbs from the middle of the ball to the outside edges. Repeat 3-5 times.
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