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  • Writer's pictureBeth Abney

How To Massage Away Your Own Pain

I’ve talked to several people recently about ways to treat yourself when you can’t get to the hands of a massage therapist. While having a therapist doing the work is more precise and often more enjoyable, there is a fair amount you can do yourself to ease your own aches and pains.

A couple weeks ago my hip was bothering me when I walked. This went on for a couple days before my inner dialogue sounded something like this, “Hey Beth! Are you going to do something about this?” So I headed out to the garage to find a tennis ball.

Luckily for me I had bought a whole bag of these balls to play fetch with my dog in the park. It turns out she much prefers sticks, so all of these balls were clean aside from a little dust. Bonus!

I took one inside, placed it between me and the wall and starting using the ball to “massage” my entire hip. The hardest part of the whole treatment process was the dog attempting to steal the ball from me. Apparently she thinks balls are more fun inside. I spent 10 minutes doing this, and then later in the day I spent about 5 more minutes on it. The next day, my hip pain was gone.

Here are some tips for massaging your own pain away.

1. You can use a variety of different tools: balls, foam rollers, theracanes, the corner of a doorway, one of your kids toys, rolling pin, water bottle….get creative.

2. It’s not supposed to be excruciating. Often people talk about how painful foam rolling is. If you can’t relax into it, you’re using too much pressure. This is true no matter what device you’re using, including hands. If something feels tender when pressed on, but feels good at the same time - that’s perfect. If it just hurts, it’s probably not helping.

3. Find a sore spot and just hang out there until the soreness begins to subside. Then move on to the next spot. If the soreness does not begin to ease in 30 seconds, ease up a little. You’re pressing to hard.

When you use this sort of method, you’re not physically pushing the knot out of the muscles. What’s happening as that spot becomes less sore, is that your nervous system is resetting the threshold for the amount of pressure that spot feels safe with, which in turn causes your muscle to relax. When working with the nervous system, it’s best not to shout. Just show it what needs attention, and it’ll do the rest.

4. You can use a roller or a ball on the floor, but for many this may be too intense due to the amount of pressure or awkward positioning. A solution to this is to use a wall instead. You’ve got a lot more control this way.

5. Areas to avoid applying pressure to: back of the knee, center of the soft side of the elbow, throat, directly over the spine, bruises and abrasions

Here are a couple links to give you some ideas on how to use these kinds of tools for self-massage. Listen to your body. Experiment, and see what works for you.

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