Nothing feels better than a massage when your muscles feel tight and sore, and now research suggests that it might actually help with healing after a hard workout.
A new study by scientists at the Harvard Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering and the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) shows that even mice benefit from loving care for their little legs.
The team found that they recovered stronger and faster than untreated muscles.
“Many people have tried to study the beneficial effects of massage and other mechanotherapy on the body, but up until that point it has not been systematic and reproducible,” says Dave Mooney, PhD at the Wyss Institute and MEER.
While a specially designed robotic system applied the pressure and showed a link between mechanical stimulation and muscle fiber regeneration, we cannot all afford fancy equipment or a massage therapist to soothe our tired, sore muscles.
With this in mind, self-massage is a great way to relieve sore muscles and you are in control and can apply more or less pressure if necessary.
Matt Flanagan, CEO and Sports Health Specialist at E-Bikes Direct explains how you can safely massage yourself to relieve the pain …
Neck and shoulders
It is safe to massage your neck and shoulders, but as these are sensitive areas, care must be taken not to apply too much pressure as this can cause sore muscles and further aggravate injured muscles. Neck and shoulder pain are often caused by overuse, lack of exercise, or poor posture and can be extremely uncomfortable.
How to massage your neck
First of all, with both exercises, make sure you don’t overstretch your neck as this can cause pain and other discomfort. Straighten your neck and back and find the areas on your neck that need a massage. Press firmly with your fingers and use gentle circular motions, first clockwise, then counterclockwise. Do this for up to five minutes.
Place your left hand on the neck muscle behind your left ear and apply gentle pressure on the area. Make sure your fingers / hand are not moving and instead slowly turn your head to the right while continuing to apply pressure. Repeat on the right side.
How to massage your shoulders
Place two or three fingertips of your right hand on the back of your neck where your neck and shoulders meet. Press firmly but gently and release it three times. Then roll your fingers over the muscle and move towards your neck. Repeat with your left hand.
With a tennis / massage ball: position the ball between your lower back and a wall. Move your body either up and down or from side to side to find areas of tension. Put more pressure on the ball to relieve tension. Repeat as needed.
Massage without a support: If you don’t have access to a small ball or are on the move, you can massage yourself without it. Sitting on the floor with your legs crossed and your back straight, place your thumbs on the flat bone at the bottom of your spine and move your thumbs up and down in small circular motions. Apply firm pressure to tight spots for a moment, release, and repeat if necessary. You can do this in a chair if you need quick relief while working.
Legs and feet
How to massage your legs
With a tennis / massage ball: Sit upright in a chair and place the ball under your thigh, under any tender areas, and use your body weight to move the ball. Start with clockwise movements, then counterclockwise and repeat if necessary.
Without support: wrap your fingers around your ankle and squeeze gently but firmly. Work your leg up and squeeze your muscles with your fingers. Continue to the hip and repeat from the ankle if necessary.
How to massage your feet
With a tennis / massage ball: ideal for those who are not that flexible. Either sitting or standing, place the ball under your foot and roll it around clockwise and counterclockwise. Adjust your body weight to change the pressure.
Without support: Hold the top of your foot in one hand and rub your thumb the length of the arch of the foot from the heel to the ball of the foot, applying more or less pressure as necessary. Repeat if necessary.
Another method, without using a brace, is to use your thumb and forefinger to move each toe one at a time from side to side, gently squeezing and straightening each toe.