Little aches and pains are part of engaging in activity. We all get tight muscles and tender spots from time to time. In my experience, what appears to be joint pain can often be referred muscular pains. Some judicious self massage can help alleviate this discomfort. Of course it would be nice if we all had our own lie in masseuse, but for those of you who have to make do with common household implements, here are some ideas.
Most of these are based on the principle of what might be called “trigger point” massage. This is based on exerting pressure on a small area, and either pressing down for a certain length of time, or moving whatever is pressing down without moving it over the skin. Unlike massage types which use oil and make strokes along the skin, this type of massage uses the movement between skin and underlying tissue.
1. Tape together two golf balls, squash balls, or tennis balls so that they look like the number 8.
Stand with your back against a wall, and turn the number 8 sideways. Insert the 8 between your back and the wall, and do a squat up and down the wall to roll them along your “trigger points”. Folks without good shoulder flexibility may want a partner to help them with this.
The centre part of the sideways 8 should be over your spine, with one sphere on each side. Do not allow the spheres to press directly on your spine. You want them to hit the muscles on each side, not the bony spinal protrusions. You can also lie on the number 8 if you like, and let your bodyweight press the spheres into your sore spots. If you plan on lying on the spheres, you can also throw them into a sock and knot the end shut.
A thick sock with some rubber spheres (as opposed to harder balls like golf balls) is particularly good for neck pain. You can press them into the base of your skull, where the traps attach, and this may relieve headaches caused by tension in the area.
Read also: Best Neck and Shoulder Massagers
2. Quads and shins benefit from the use of a rolling pin.
This is a nice activity to do while watching TV. Start at the top of the thigh and work downward using longitudinal strokes. Use gentle strokes at first, then increase the pressure. Focusing attention on the outside of the thigh just above the knee seems to relieve IT band tenderness, and consequently often knee pain as well. Avoid the kneecap, of course, but any other area on the thigh is fair game.
Runners, who tend to experience pain and tenderness in the shins, will especially benefit from focusing on this area. Use the same motion as for the quads, and roll over any area with soft tissue, avoiding the shinbone. A partner could conceivably rolling-pin you in other areas too.
3. A friendly door frame or protruding corner will work for spots in the back.
Lean your back up against it, squat down slightly, and arch your back so that your upper body is partially supported by the corner. The degree of lean will determine the amount of pressure. As with the rolling pin, you may prefer to start with light pressure then increase. Press the corner into sore spots, particularly traps and mid back. To massage over an area, press into the corner, then move your body to work the area. The corner should stay at the same spot on your skin; the muscle underneath is what should move.
4. If your calves cramp while out running, find a low railing and throw your calf over it.
Use the railing to work out the sore spots. Use the same principle as for the doorframe, keeping the railing stationary on your skin while moving your leg so that the pressure is worked over the underlying tissue.
Read also: Top 5 Best Calf Massagers in UK
5. For smaller areas where there is inflammation, freeze a paper cup full of water.
Peel part of the cup away and use it as a hard/cold object for self-massage.
6. Elbow tendonitis, or what feels like tendonitis, can in fact respond to massage of the surrounding muscles of the forearm.
Using your thumb or the ice in the paper cup described above, grind into the soft tissue of the forearm. With a firm pressure, make small circles over the area. Again, the thumb does not move across the skin, but while remaining on one point of skin, moves over the underlying tissue.
For pain felt on the inside of the elbow, which is usually aggravated by gripping with arm extended and palm facing up (as in a biceps curl), work the area near the attachment of the forearm flexors, as shown in the photo.
For pain felt on the outside of the elbow, usually aggravated by gripping with arm extended and palm facing down (as in a triceps pressdown), work over the attachment of the forearm extensors, on the opposite side.
7. Trigger points in the hip can masquerade as lower back pain.
This type of irritation can be relieved by using the same type of technique as #6, but in the hip joint. To find this trigger point, feel along lower back just above the glute for the bony ridge of the pelvis. Then work down and towards the outside of the hip until you hit it. Might be wise to try this one at home so people at your gym aren’t wondering why you’re grabbing your butt.
This one provides instant back pain relief for me. A friendly massage partner with a sharp elbow also works well here. Lie on your side or front, and have them press the bony protrusion of their bent elbow into this area along the outside of the hip and glute.
8. Other areas which respond nicely to this type of thumb massage include soft tissue around and above the ankle and the IT band.
Experiment using the above principles and discover new ways to hammer out your dents!