Self-massage–Is it Beneficial?


There is absolutely nothing like the touch of another human being. Think about it; washing your own hair feels nothing like getting your hair washed by your hair dresser.

Times are different now and we don’t know what the future will look like in terms of professions that require face to face interactions like massage therapy.

Does that mean that we can’t benefit from self-massage techniques? Absolutely not. Just because it doesn’t feel the same doesn’t mean there aren’t benefits.

There are any number of reasons why people seek massages–relaxation is just one of them. Often times it’s due to discomfort arising from pain and pain can come from any number of situations:

  • Working in one position too long;

  • Working at a set up that encourages poor alignment;

  • Watching a television hung too high on the wall;

All of these situations have the potential to produce trigger points. A trigger point is described as a highly irritable spot with a palpable nodule in taut bands of skeletal muscle. When this nodule is compressed it can elicit local tenderness with radiation to distant areas that correlate to a particular pain pattern (depending on the muscle) and a local twitch response. Once this trigger point is found and released, the pain resolves.

There are any number of tools that can be used to release trigger points.

This handy device is curved with a handle and several knobs. Place the knob on the area that feels tender and use the handle to press onto that area. Hold for a few moments and you will feel that tender spot release and become less painful.

Tennis balls:

Tennis balls are used in the same was as the Theracane. Place the tennis ball on the wall and the painful area on the tennis ball. Place the tennis ball in a pillow case and hold onto the free end to keep the ball from falling. You can press the area in question against the ball with as much or as little pressure as you want. You can hold steady or move your body in small circles or short side-to-side directions.

Foam Rollers:
Foam rollers can be used to reduce muscle tightness or joint stiffness. For myofascial release, use the foam roller on glutes, hamstrings. iliotibial band, adductors and calves. Foam rollers come in a myriad of textures and degrees of firmness. If you are new to foam rolling, I would suggest one that is less dense with a smooth texture.
For back stiffness and pain, there are three ways to use the foam roll:
1. Horizontal for stiffness along thoracic spine
  • Lie on top of the foam roll, with the foam roll positioned at the lower aspect of your middle back;
  • With your knees bent and your fingers clasped behind your neck, (don’t yank on your head or neck, maintain a neutral spine), roll your body up and then down along the foam roll; don’t go below the lowest part of your mid back nor above the highest part of your mid back. This is a relatively small area
  • If there is a specific area of your thoracic or mid spine that feels particularly stiff, you can mobilize that area to reduce stiffness.
2. Horizontal for spot mobilization on thoracic spine
  • Lie on the foam roll with the specific area to be mobilized on the foam roll;
  • Arch your back, holding the position for a count of 10;
  • Repeat 5 times

3. Vertical to mobilize thoracic spine and open up anterior chest wall
  • Place the foam roll on the floor vertically;
  • Lie on top of the foam roll so that your head and hips are supported, keep knees bent to maintain balance;
  • Place your arms horizontally on the floor, palms up, in a T-position;
  • Hold this for as long as you feel comfortable

Utilize these self-massage techniques to maintain flexibility, reduce muscle tightness and alleviate trigger points.
Foam roller photos here
Tennis ball massage photos here
Theracane photos here

Book Authored by Deidre Ann Johnson

Keep this handy book by your desk while working or in your carry on when travelling for tips to keep you flexible and pain free.