Self Massaging Techniques

Self Massaging Techniques

Muscle and tissue tenderness and pain often comes from trigger points which are specific areas along a muscle that have high sensitivity. This is caused by excessive neural stimulation to the muscle fibers, which causes them to adhere together, explains physical therapist Gray Cook, author of "Athletic Body in Balance." There are different ways to perform self-massage to alleviate muscle tenderness, although there may be parts of your body that you may not be able to massage by yourself.

Foam Rolling
Self-myofascial release, or SMR, is a type of self-massage technique that applies pressure to the triggers to break the tissue adhesions. Many physical therapists and fitness professionals use the foam roller as a tool for SMR. It is a cylindrical roll that is made out of densely-packed styrofoam between one to three feet long. For most exercises, you lay a body part on top of the roll, such as you thighs, calves or back, and gentle roll along the length of the muscle fibers. When you find a tender spot, massage the area gently until the pain and tenderness goes away, the National Academy of Sports Medicine recommends.

The Stick
Another tool that helps you perform SMR is the massage stick, which is a semi-flexible plastic baton that has a segmented series of rollers that roll individually when you gently rub it over a body part. You can target specific areas more precisely than a foam roller, and the stick is portable. To use it, hold the stick at each end with each hand and rub over the length of the body part, such as your outer thighs and calves. You can adjust the amount of pressure with your hands, and follow the same procedure as you would with the foam roller.

A massage vibrator loosens up tight tissues by applying various degrees of vibration upon the trigger point. It desensitizes the muscle, which loosens some or all of the adhesion. Ohio State University recommends that you apply the vibration directly to the painful spot between 25 to 45 minutes twice a day.

Expert Insight
Physical therapist Chris Frederick, author of "Stretch to Win," recommends that you stretch the area after the self-massage by holding the stretch for at least 30 seconds. This further reduces neural stimulation to the tight tissues and prevents the area from getting worse. Perform each stretch two to three times.