BY ROBERT JAY WATSON
With an ever-growing body of scientific research showing the benefits of massage therapy for people of all ages, there has never been a better time to try this alternative to medication. With Americans increasingly aware of the danger of resorting to addictive opioids for managing pain, massage offers a low-risk solution for relief by stimulating the body’s ability to heal itself.
For many people who work in sedentary desk jobs and spend a lot of time in the car, neck and back pain are some of the most common complaints. Today, we’ll look at some easy ways to treat these problems with massage.
1. Use a Tennis Ball to Relieve Back Pain
Illustration – Shutterstock | fizkesIt’s hard to believe that such a cheap piece of sports equipment could be so powerful in treating pain, but tennis balls can become your back’s best friend. Many people who suffer back pain have poor posture as a result of sitting too much. Others have jobs that require lots of bending over and lifting, which can also cause problems.
Regardless, with just two tennis balls, you can give your back a break.
1. Lie on your back on a yoga mat or supported surface like a rug.
2. Bend your knees and put your feet on the ground.
3. Lift your hips straight up in the air.
4. Slide the two tennis balls under your back, shoulder blades, neck, or under whatever spot is in pain.
5. Let your hips down and relax your weight onto the floor and tennis balls for at a least a minute.
You have the option of rolling the tennis balls around under your body to massage the areas that are in pain.
2. Use a Hot Towel to Relieve Pain
Illustration – Shutterstock | Prostock-studioJust like the tennis ball trick, you don’t need to do anything fancy to find a quick solution for pain. Either at the gym, at home, or even at the office, you just need a towel and a way to warm it up.
1. To begin, take your towel and twist it until it becomes braided.
2. Grasping each end of the towel with your hands, put it behind your neck.
3. Keeping your head straight up, begin rubbing the towel around the base of the neck.
4. Depending on the level of pain, you can try different amounts of pressure.
3. Stretch and Self-Massage
Illustration – Shutterstock | Dragana GordicWhile the advantage of having a professional masseuse work on you is clear, there’s a great deal that you can do yourself to relieve pain.
1. Stand up tall with your spine straight.
2. If you are right-handed, put your left arm over your neck and push down on the trouble spot. If you are left-handed, try your right hand.
3. Once you find your pressure point, apply consistent pressure with your hand for at least 30 seconds.
4. Moving your hand around the area, if you come across other places where you feel pain, repeat the procedure.
While all the above options have the advantage of being able to do them yourself, sometimes you need to call in a professional. Here are some massage techniques that you can look into for relief for back and neck problems.
Illustration – Shutterstock | imtmphotoWhile shiatsu massage is a Japanese practice, it derives from ancient Chinese medicine. Just as acupuncture seeks to relieve blockages in flows in the patient’s “qi,” or vital energy, so shiatsu, which means “finger pressure” in Japanese, tries to do this with the masseuse’s hands. But it’s not just fingers; the shiatsu masseuse can also use thumbs, feet, and palms on pressure points.
5. Hot Stone Massage
Illustration – Shutterstock | UfaBizPhotoA common treatment in many spas, this form of massage involves using smooth river stones that have been heated up. Stones are usually warmed to 110 to 130°F (43 to 54°C) in a specially designed device. Depending on the areas of where the person is feeling pain, a masseuse will place the stones in the necessary areas.
They can either leave the stones there, press them down, or move them across the skin using techniques derived from Swedish massage. The heat from the stones helps tensed muscles relax, which means the massage can be more effective.
6. Ayurvedic Massage
Illustration – Shutterstock | Lucky BusinessDeveloped in India as part of an ancient system of medicine that emerged over 3,000 years ago, Ayurvedic massage focuses on specific energy points within the body and uses essential oils to help in relieving stress and maximizing relaxation. Masseuses may also use tuning forks, which vibrate at particular frequencies and can help release tension.
Ayurvedic massage differs from many other techniques in that it views the patient as a whole person. The massage is not just physical; it also eases the emotional burden that leads to tension building up in the first place.
7. Thai Massage
Illustration – Shutterstock | KotinVery different to other kinds of massage, Thai massage uses movements similar to yoga to ease pain and restore well-being. The masseuse will stretch, pull, push, and rock the person being massaged to help get rid of the pain they are experiencing. There will not be the usual rubbing of the muscles found in traditional massage. By putting the person in different positions, the balance of compression and release will help remove any blockages in energy circulation.
8. Deep Tissue Massage
Illustration – Shutterstock | Aleks GudenkoThis last technique is fairly self-explanatory. Advocates believe that by using lots of sustained pressure, they can work their way into the areas beneath the skin where the pain and discomfort originate. Whereas traditional massage uses light to moderate pressure and focuses on the skin level, deep tissue can be momentarily uncomfortable as the masseuse delves into the muscle area.