Health & Wellness

Learn to Benefit from Self-Massage

Massage. For some, the word alone brings feelings of enjoyment and relaxation. But, for those who don’t have a care partner to provide home massage, don’t have access to massage therapy, or don’t care to be touched by strangers, the word may induce frustration. We may want the tension relief that massage can offer, but have obstacles to finding it. Self-massage can help.
Self-massage is an ancient health technique in many cultures. Various forms, such as Ayurvedic Abhyanga, remain in practice today. While little research has been done on self-massage, a recent study on self-care for people with progressive MS included self-massage among other interventions (diet, meditation, stretching, and electrical stimulation); in combination, these techniques were shown to positively affect self-reported mood and cognition. Furthermore, self-massage likely carries over some benefits of therapeutic massage, such as reduced muscle tension, decreased anxiety, improved sleep, and improved circulation.
How to Begin
• Choose your oil. You don’t necessarily need to purchase a specially blended aroma-therapeutic massage oil. While some oils absorb more quickly than others, there are several – such as cocoa butter, shea butter, coconut oil, olive oil, or sesame oil – that can be purchased at your local drug store or grocery that will work well. Coconut oil tends to have a cooling effect on the skin, while sesame oil can have a warming effect.
• Prepare your space. Choose a quiet room with a comfortable temperature. Put the oil in a bowl of hot water to warm it. Test a drop on your wrist to make sure the temperature is appropriate before applying it to your skin. You may wish to sit on a mat or towel to keep surfaces clean.
• Begin your massage. Typically, self-massage begins with the head or face and works downward to the feet and toes. Rub the warmed oil onto your hands and massage in gentle circles. Start with a light touch, and increase where you can comfortably tolerate more pressure. For large muscle groups, such as the arms and legs, try long, upward strokes with even pressure from the palm of the hand, or deep massage with the fingertips. Be gentle and careful around any areas of injury or diminished sensation. Reapply oil to your hands as needed.
• Relax. To get the most out of your self- massage, plan to spend fifteen minutes resting afterwards. This allows the oils to absorb into your skin, and your muscles to fully relax. Allow your mind to drift, or
practice mindfulness meditation. Then enjoy a warm shower or bath to rinse any excess oils from your skin.
With regular or daily practice, you’ll learn the self-massage techniques that bring you the most benefit.