Note: The information contained in this article is for educational purposes and is not medical advice.
Massage and self-massage are especially helpful for people who are bracing (full-body muscular tension), people who have any kind of tension, stress, or mental-emotional distress, and those who engage in lots of exercise (for injury prevention and recovery). Massage can also enhance self-awareness of your body, giving you clues about how to focus your healing efforts.
There are two basic or common types of self-massage discussed in this article.
Self-massage can be used for giving yourself a full-body relaxation massage. Although it is not quite as enjoyable as being massaged by someone else, you will find that it can still soothe your tension and be very beneficial for your wellness! To do relaxation massage for yourself, some basic instructions are below, but I recommend that you consult books on self-massage or any book about massage that includes a section about self-massage. See the Self-Help Book/Video List or Search Amazon.com for self-massage books. The more you know about what to do, the better your self-massage will be.
If you have chronic sore areas, such as shoulders or neck, it is often helpful to gently rub and massage them several different times during the day. Good times include whenever muscles start to feel tight or hurt (and also when they don't hurt, for prevention!), waiting for freight trains, sitting at stop lights, or watching TV. Also take frequent breaks from your work to massage sore areas.
If you want to use deeper self-massage to heal or open up an area of the body with chronic pain, soreness, tight muscles, or restricted tissues, it's a good idea to first see a professional massage therapist to ask about your specific condition and receive advice for what to do. A few health conditions can be worsened by deep massage, and your therapist will know if there are any precautions. Some conditions where receiving deep massage could be damaging or dangerous include inflammatory conditions, skin conditions, varicose veins, tumors or cysts, abnormal sensitivity to touch, bruises, bacterial or viral infections, fever, cardiovascular/circulatory conditions, thrombosis (blood clots), diabetes, cancer, taking certain kinds of medications. After you consult a professional, you will have the knowledge that deeper self-massage is safe for you, and you can then proceed confidently and effectively to help yourself. Your massage therapist can give you specific instruction.
After you have verified with your massage therapist that deep self-massage is safe for you, if you are working on a specific part of the body, a good picture anatomy book can be of great assistance. The more you know about the area of the body you are massaging, the more quickly and accurately you can help yourself. In addition, you'll be able to communicate more effectively about that problem area with your therapist or other health care providers. See the Self-Help Book/Video List or Search Amazon.com for anatomy books.
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by Jan DeCourtney, CMT