6 Self-Massage Techniques to Ease Tension

When you’re feeling tense, tight, or stressed (or just want to pamper yourself), nothing beats going to get a massage. But sometimes you need relief fast—or don’t have the money to spend at a fancy spa! In those cases, relaxation can be found a lot closer to home. Self-massage—where you use your own hands or props like a tennis ball or foam roller to work out kinks and get muscles to loosen up—can be the perfect way to unwind after a tough day. Here are some techniques to get you started:

For your tired toes: Cross your right leg over the left knee and weave your fingers on your left hand in between the toes on your right foot. Keep your hand in that position while circling your ankle in both directions, then switch feet. “It’s a wonderful way to mobilize your toes and stretch them out, especially if you wore cramped or narrow shoes that day,” says Jill Miller, author of The Roll Model.

 For your aching feet: “Your foot has 26 bones, which means there are so many joints down there,” says Miller. “Improving the movement of your foot will help how your entire body moves.” Here’s what she suggests: Stand with a tennis ball under one of your feet and roll the ball under the entire foot, stopping when you hit a particularly tight spot. If it feels like too much pressure, you can do this while sitting or leaning against a wall. When that foot feels better, move on to the other one.

For your tight neck: Lie on your side with a foam roller under your neck. “It should be snug in the area between your jaw and shoulder,” says Vivian Eisenstadt, an orthopedic physical therapist and owner/head physical therapist at Vivie Therapy. “Let the foam roller find all your trigger points on the side of your neck, then roll a little onto your back and a little towards your front (just don’t let it press on the front of your neck).” Repeat that motion on the other side.

For your tense shoulders: Hunched over your computer all day? This move will help you out. Get two tennis balls, lie down on the ground, and place them under your shoulders (try to get them around the spot where backpack straps would hit). Place your feet on the floor and raise your pelvis up a few inches to increase the pressure on the balls. From there, raise your arms and sway them above you like seaweed. This should move the balls around the upper shoulder zone. “These muscles work to keep your head upright all day long, so they tend to be overworked,” says Miller.

For your sore lower back: Stand and place your hands on your hips with thumbs on your back. Work your thumbs into your spine, then down over your hip bones. “You’ll be able to feel the tension where you’ve been sitting,” says Amber Lamont, a massage therapist based in Alberta, Canada.

For your overworked hands: When you’ve been typing for hours on end, your hands can feel cramped and exhausted. When that happens, use one hand to work out the other. “Use your right hand’s fingers to pull down each finger on your left hand, from base to tip, while twisting back and forth,” says Lamont. “Then work your right thumb into the palm of the left hand, doing circular motions. Pay extra attention to the area between your thumb and forefinger because it can get really sore there.” Then repeat on your other hand.

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