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How to give yourself a massage — and why it's so worth it

Woman massaging foot with a tennis ball.
Diana Kelley Levey
Diana Kelly Levey October, 28, 2019

Runner, dancer, baker, adopted dog mom, wisecracker (or jokester)

Ever experience a tightness in your neck and wish you had someone around to help you release the tension? Masseuses sometimes charge big bucks, but you don't have to pay a professional (or even bribe a friend) to do it for you. Knowing how to give yourself a massage at home is a valuable skill — one that can save you hundreds of dollars!

Here's what you need to know about Swedish massage (a popular form of massage therapy that has long been touted for its many health benefits) as well as a few proven techniques that will allow you to address aching muscles with your own two hands and a couple of household items.

So, what is a Swedish massage?

Swedish massage is probably what you picture when you think of getting a treatment at the spa. It's a way of applying pressure to the body by moving soft tissue in a rhythm and sequence designed to improve your health.

Of course, Swedish massage fans swear by its relaxing effects, but this style of massage has the medical prowess to go along with its restorative properties. In addition to improving circulation, which in turn helps address muscle soreness, the benefits of Swedish massage range from disease prevention to a reduction in back, neck, shoulder and knee pain.

Young designer stretching herself while work in studio, work lifestyle concept. Motion blur4 Ways to give yourself a great massage

When you feel stressed, anxious or overwhelmed, your body probably reacts by tensing the muscles in your upper back, shoulders and neck. This is really common! Understanding how to give yourself a massage allows you to loosen yourself up, so you can get on with your day.

Luckily, there are quite a few ways to give yourself a Swedish massage. The next time you find yourself with a few free moments, try out these four methods to find what works best for you.

1. Stretch your shoulders
You can relax tight shoulders and neck muscles using a strip of material such as a scarf, belt or elastic exercise band. Hold the object in front of you with both hands at shoulder height, then slowly raise it over and behind your head while bending your elbows. When you feel tension — not pain — pause and breathe into the tightness for a few breaths. Return the belt back to the front of your body and repeat the exercise as needed.

2. Get back to basics
For this technique, you'll need a long sock and a tennis ball. Drop the ball into the sock and toss the closed end over one of your shoulders, so that the ball rests against your back. Holding onto the open end of the sock, press your back against a wall for about 10 seconds where you feel knots and tightness. This is a great way to soothe neck, back and shoulder pain. You can also take the tennis ball out of the sock and place it under your bare foot. While standing, roll the ball under your foot to break up tight connective tissue and relieve pain.

3. Focus on your knees
For athletes (or former athletes) who tend to suffer from knee pain, using your hands to massage the soft tissue around your knee can really help reduce stiffness, eliminate discomfort and improve overall function.

4. Knead your neck muscles
If there's only one massage skill you learn to do at home, make it a neck massage. That's because frequent massage therapy can reduce short-term neck pain! Try to identify a pressure point or knot that feels tight. Next, apply light pressure to the "trigger point" with a thumb or forefinger and middle finger for 30 to 90 seconds to reduce tissue tension. This sometimes feels uncomfortable, but you should never be in pain. You can also use two tennis balls in a sock to massage your neck; simply position them under the lower part of your neck as you lie on the floor for 5 to 10 minutes. This form of acupressure can seriously help relieve sensations of tightness.

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