The pain was so intense it jolted me awake. I was instantly awake and knew exactly what was wrong. My shoulder and neck muscles had tensed and locked in place. All the strain and stress that comes with being a special-needs mom that I had been carrying on my shoulders for the last few years had just exploded out.
After soaking myself in a hot bath I was grateful to have picked up enough self-massage techniques that I could use until daylight when I would start searching for a massage therapist. Being Canada Day, I knew it would be a challenge.
For emergerncy “first aid” or just “me-time”, here are five self-massage techniques that will leave you feeling awesome from head to toe.
Close your eyes, then place your thumbs on the top inside corner of each eye socket holding them there for a few seconds. Apply a little pressure and gently move your thumbs in small circles, slowly tracing the top half of your eye socket. Be careful not to pull the skin. Repeat this several times.
Using your index finger, repeat the same movement along the bottom of your eye socket.
Finally, rub your hands together vigorously to generate some heat them simply place them over your eyes for a few minutes.
Start by placing the fingertips of your four fingers from each hand in the middle of your forehead, thumbs resting naturally on the sides of the head. Applying pressure and using circular movements, slowly sweep the fingers across your forehead. Repeat several times.
Next, place your thumbs on your cheekbones so they rest near your ears. Using your first two fingers, apply pressure and make small circular movements on your temples (the soft spot between the corner of your eye and your ear). Our instincts guide us to rub this area when we feel overwhelmed because this simple massage feels amazing.
3. Neck and Shoulders
First, place a warm facecloth around your neck and the top of your shoulders to relax those stiff muscles. Next, place your hands on either side of your head just below your ears and slowly move your fingers down your neck making small circles and applying a little pressure with the pads of your fingers. Sweep your fingers across the top of your shoulders. Repeat two more times.
Next place the palm of your hand on the opposite shoulder. Beginning at the base of the neck, squeeze and let go of your shoulder pulsing as you move towards the arm. Ensure your shoulder is relaxed by supporting the arm. Repeat twice then switch to the opposite shoulder. Finally, roll your shoulders backwards then forwards three to four times.
To stretch your neck and back, place your hands on the back of your head interlacing the fingers and drop your head towards your chin.
4. Lower Back
You’ll need a tennis ball for this one or an apple if you are really desperate. Stand a few centimetres from the wall with your feet hip distance apart and position the ball between your back and the wall. Slowly move your body up and down and from side to side spending a little longer where the muscles feel particularly tense. Avoid rolling the ball along your spine to prevent injury.
Sit down with a tennis ball under your foot and slowly roll it back and forth from your heel to your toes. Stay a little longer on any area that feels particularly tender making small circles until it relaxes.
If a tennis balls feels too big for your feet, you can use a golf ball instead and a soup can will do if you don’t have either. On particularly long days, your feet will appreciate it if you use a frozen water bottle.
Finally, flex and extend your foot, do a few ankle rotations and finish by stretching your toes.
Repeat with the opposite foot.
Since that early morning wake up call, I have learned to take time to look after myself. One aspect of that is not only giving myself regular massages but also making routine visits to a massotherapist. These simple self-massage techniques, put me in charge of releasing my stress-fighting hormones.
That morning, I did eventually find a massage therapist who was shocked by the sight of the most tense shoulders they had ever seen during a career of almost two decades. It is much better to take care of our bodies on a regular basis rather than waiting until something literally gives. It puts us in a better position to look after our loved ones. After all, we all know that “you can not pour from an empty cup”.