It's important to prioritize self-care, where you're giving your body the love and rest it needs to feel rejuvenated and at ease. The body does so much: between daily errands and scheduled workouts, muscles can easily become tight and sore.
And, if you're sedentary for the majority of the day (those hours spent in your office chair add up!), it can cause the neck, back, and other areas to become stiff.
The good news is getting regular massages can help alleviate tension and lower risk of injury. These are the key areas to focus on, for greater relief and mobility in the body.
Don't be afraid to do some work on your head. "This is an often overlooked area that can hold a lot of tension especially for those of us with fast paced lifestyle. The muscles that control your jaw start all the way up above your ears, and often have taut bands that need to be worked out," explains Austin Misiura, DPT, OCS, CSCS, owner of Pure Physical Therapy, a rehab and movement retraining center in Miami, FL.
Try these techniques: "perpendicular strumming to the temporalis (up and down strokes an inch above your ear and behind your temple), ear pulls (pulling and holding the ear in a direction that feels like a good stretch), or hair pulls (gentle pulling with sustained holds to mobilize the scalp tissue)," he says.
Head massage can also help with breathing and congestion, he adds, so there are more benefits than just relieving stress and reducing pain.
Neck and Shoulders
"Again, a lot of stress and tension is often held in the neck, upper back and shoulders," he says, which can lead to imbalances in the body and cause pain elsewhere, too.
The good news is "trigger point release to the levator scapulae and trapezius can decrease neck and mid-scapular pain," he says. By reducing stress in these areas, you are better able to be productive and experience improved performance at work, he says.
Foot Massage and Reflexology
"Research has shown a link between reflexology and decreases in anxiety and depression," he says, so show your tootsies and heels some love. "As with any complementary therapy, the exact mechanism for why it works is unknown, however it is believed that there are points in the feet that correspond to distant areas of the body and can promote healing and blood flow to these areas," he explains.
For this intervention, select a practitioner with a good amount of experience and a good reputation, he says, with a solid foundation in reflexology as a bonus.
"Certain tissues, such as the hip flexors, quadratus lumborum, and hip external rotators are known to become taut and guarded (meaning there are spasms), especially due to low back injury or prolonged sitting," he says.
These muscles are located in the deeper layers of soft tissue in the body and require deeper pressure to be accessed. A Tip? "Many people try to reach the hip flexor (psoas) with a tennis ball, but I have found that using a bigger ball such as a softball for this area is the only way to accomplish direct pressure on the muscle due to how deep it is," he says.
Besides the regular benefits of massage, sports massage can decrease the amount of perceived soreness after a workout, and it can reduce swelling more quickly than standard massages can.
"A lot of the benefit from sports massage will be psychological, as when we get worked on via manual therapy, we get a positive nervous system response in the area of the tissues being worked on," he says.
Yet, take note: "when edema or swelling is present, make sure to use strokes that are moving in the direction of the heart to promote the reduction of fluid in any particular area," he says.
And, as with all massages, be sure to drink water and rest afterwards to maximize the benefits and improve repair of damaged muscles.
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