symmetrical pattern mandala - green yellow

Massage for self-care

Massage is an easy way to practice self-care and is helpful for alleviating pain and promoting relaxation.

self applied massage

Before you start

Massage is a great tool, but it is also helpful to consider what might be contributing to your discomfort and other strategies you might use to alleviate it.

  • Positioning. Are you sitting at a desk, computer, on the couch, or in bed all day?  If you can, mix up your position throughout the day to distribute your muscles workload.  Alternating between rest and activation will help.
  • Stretching. Your legs and back may be tight so give them some love! From a standing or seated position bend forward towards your toes to stretch out the long muscles of your legs and back. This should not hurt, so don’t push it too far. Bend your knees if you get uncomfortable.
  • Posture. When you are standing up or sitting down take a few deep breaths and pull your shoulders up to your ears and roll them back to help realign your posture. Also, remember to firm up and contract your abdominal muscles to help support your spine.
Getting started

Soreness and muscle tension are common issues that many of us experience. Whether you have an active lifestyle and are physically active or you are worn out and fatigued from treatment, you can learn a few massage techniques to enhance your wellbeing. 

When performing massage on yourself it is important to think about what you can actually reach and do comfortably and what you may need a tool for to help you.  

  • Easily accessible locations include your head, hands, feet, and stomach.  
  • Tools are an option for hard to reach or difficult areas like your neck, back, and legs.
Pressure

The goal is to use as much pressure as is enjoyable and eases muscle tension (and NOT to apply as much pressure as you can tolerate).  Here are some tips:

  • Massage can vary from very light pressure to deep pressure.
  • When applying pressure start with light pressure and gradually increase as tolerated.  
  • Pressure should be noticeable but not painful or uncomfortable. 
  • Too much pressure can increase muscle tension and stress.
  • Avoid deep, unrelenting tissue pressure.   
  • Avoid aggressive friction when applying pressure, i.e., excessive rubbing.
Tools

There are many types of tools to use for massage, but be aware that you want to err on the side of light pressure to avoid tissue damage. 

  • Hand gloves and rolling balls provide an even distribution of pressure and are easy to use. 
  • Canes are good for reaching those hard to get areas like your back, neck, and feet. 
  • Foam rollers are another option for an even distribution of pressure. They are especially effective for your legs, back, and glutes.
© 2022 Regents of the University of Minnesota. All rights reserved. The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator and employer. Privacy Statement