Since 2020 began, our lives have changed dramatically, and everything from our mental health to our working environment have taken a turn. The global pandemic and consequent lockdown will also have taken a toll on our bodies. Whether its different WFH set-ups or changing exercise and movement schedules, we will undoubtedly have experienced some form of aches and pains as our muscles become accustomed to the 'new normal'. Here's how to give yourself a massage from home if you're really suffering.
From personal experience, there seem to be two reasons why my own body is aching more than usual right now, which I'm sure many of you may be able to relate to. For one, my routine when it comes to sitting at a chair and desk has fallen flat, meaning I often end up on the sofa working, which makes my back ache to no end.
Helen Clark, Lush Spa Trainer at the Oxford Street Branch, agrees that this is something many of us are suffering with currently. "A lot of people are now working from home," she says. "Bending over laptops is causing sore shoulders and a tired lower back." Divan Kombrink, Master trainer at the Khera Griggs Cleanse Clinic at UrbanRetreat, adds that the fact we are also sitting down more than usual is resulting in "the neck upper traps and lower back taking strain."
The second is down to new forms of exercise. I have taken up running, which can result in achey leg muscles, as well as virtual HIIT workouts, which often cause all-over fatigue a little more than usual, particularly when the rest of the day is spent doing little to no movement.
This is where self-massage steps in. "Massage is a very old and traditional way of working after physical exercise," notes Physiotherapist Renata Nunes. "Post-exercise massage helps to increase blood circulation, reduce circulating cortisol and increase the concentration of beta-endorphins."
It is also great for soothing muscles that are sore and overworked. "If you have found an area of tension you can gently release it by applying a small amount of pressure to the area," notes Clark. Sports massage and deep tissue massage in particular can really help to get to the root of the problem.
I won't lie; the thought of giving myself a massage rather than going to someone who does it professionally is kind of unappealing. There's nothing I'd love more than to have a deep tissue massage on one of those fancy chairs with the face holes in them right now, but alas, during the global pandemic, these are not services we have access to, so we've got to put in the graft ourselves. "Self-massage will not have the same result as when we receive it from a trained professional, but it can help a lot to recover faster after physical activity," Nunes reminds us. The following techniques will help you to get it right:
With hands & a massage bar:
"If you are going to attempt self massage or massage for a partner we advise using a massage medium," says Clark. "We use Lush’s plastic packaging-free solid massage bars that melt at skin temperature. Hottie and Wiccy Magic Muscles are particularly effective as they have warming essential oils in them, you can feel working. You want a nice slip on the skin so as not to cause too much friction."
So grab your bar and begin to massage with your hands in smooth, sweeping motions. Follow these top tips, provided by Clark herself, and if you can't visualise what this should all look like, check out this handy YouTube video, which will show you the types of movements you should be practising.
- Warm up the area well. This gets the skin and muscles ready for deeper work and relaxes the muscles. You can also start to feel for areas of tension or what are commonly known as “knots” at this point.
- Increase the pressure where you need to as the area starts to relax. It can take anywhere from 30 seconds to a few minutes for the tension to be released. If it's a big knot that we often find in the shoulders it may take a few sessions for the knot to disappear.
- Make sure you gently massage over the area after you have applied pressure points. This encourages the area to self-heal. Gentle applications of hot and cold cloths can also help the muscles to self heal.
- Remember massage should be relaxing. If you are not confident in the area you are massaging then ease off the pressure.
- Make sure you stretch before and after... whether you are the one giving or receiving the massage.
With a tennis ball:
Nunes opts for a massage using tennis balls to do the work, rather than relying on hands, which may not be best trained. Follow her step-by-step all-over body guide to soothe tired muscles:
- Place two tennis balls inside a sock and knot the sock.
- Place the balls below the calf. Press your leg down and slide the balls across the calf.
- Place the balls below the thigh. Press your leg down and slide the balls down your thigh.
- Place the balls on the side of the hip. Release your weight slowly on the balls and feel your muscle relax. Also, place the balls across the side of the thigh and massage.
- Place the balls below the quadriceps. Release your weight slowly and move your body by massaging the whole muscle
- You can place two or four balls (inside the sock) bellow the hips and back. Do not place the ball below the sacrum bone, place only below the glute muscles. You also can bring one leg to your chest to increase the pressure on the glute muscles.
- Place the balls below the lower back muscles. Do not place the ball below the spine. Keep your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. You can move your hips up and down, and side to side to massage the lower back muscles.
- Place the balls just above and make the movements go up and down, and from side to side.
- Place the balls below the thoracic spine. You can move your arms, opening and closing, going up and down and making movements with your spine from side to side.
- Place the balls below your deltoid muscle and move over the ball.
The products & tools:
From oil-based bars to specially-designed gadgets to do the hard work for you, here are some of the best self-massage mates out there:
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