Massage therapist’s guide to DIY massage

two hands massaging a womans face

Sarah Marinos

Posted May 19, 2020

Three simple massage therapy techniques you can do in the comfort of your own home.

Massage therapy is the most in-demand complementary therapy in Australia. Two out of three Australians use some kind of complementary medicine or therapy, and about 20 per cent of those see a massage therapist, according to the 2019 Complementary Health Industry Skills Forecast.

As massage therapy has grown in popularity, there’s increasing evidence to support its benefits, says Leah Dow, One Spa manager at RACV’s Cape Schanck Resort. “Massage helps to reduce stress, promotes muscle relaxation and improves blood circulation to promote healing.”  

As well as easing pain in the lower back, neck and shoulders, US studies have linked massage therapy to helping to manage headache, carpal tunnel syndrome, osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia. One University of Alabama at Birmingham study linked massage to lower blood pressure, fewer common colds and a healthier complexion. 

And the potential benefits go beyond the physical. Massage can also be used to help people experiencing anxiety, perhaps because it helps release oxytocin – one of the brain’s ‘feel good’ hormones. Some studies indicate that massage can also help people dealing with depression and stress.  

“We are wired for touch from birth,” explains Jenny Richardson of the Association of Massage Therapists. “People usually seek out massage because they have some kind of pain and discomfort, like an injured back or because they are feeling stiff after sitting at a desk all day. But it can also help people feel better when they are stressed and tense in their daily life.” 

In an ideal world, says One Spa’s Leah Dow, people should have regular massage sessions at least every couple of months to fine-tune the body – especially if you’re experiencing high levels of stress. But if you can’t make it to see a qualified massage professional, Leah suggests creating “the same sort of relaxation ambience at home by burning your favourite candle or essential oil and do some regular light stretching to increase blood flow to your muscles, improve your posture and prevent back pain.” 

person giving a hand massage

DIY massage can provide a much needed physical (and mental) release from every stress.

Jenny Richardson's simple DIY massage techniques

The DIY head massage

  • Grab a large handful of your hair and gently pull it and hold for a few seconds to maintain the tension. 
  • Let go of that handful of hair and grab another handful from a different area of your head. Tug and hold again. 
  • Repeat the process all over your head. 
  • Then, with a firm touch, move your fingertips in small circular motions around your scalp, applying as much pressure as you feel is comfortable. 
  • Finish with a neck massage by placing your hands loosely around your neck and gently massaging the back of your neck using your fingertips. Use small circular movements or stroke the back of your neck up and down.  

The DIY foot massage

  • Using a tennis ball, sit on a chair and roll the ball under your bare foot. When you find areas of the foot that are particularly tender or sore, focus on rolling the tennis ball backwards and forwards in those areas.   
  • Stand up and put pressure on the tennis ball, but not all your weight. Focus on putting pressure on parts of the foot that feel good. 
  • Then, sit on a bed or the floor and bring your right leg up so your right foot is resting on your left knee. Using your thumbs, rub the arch of your foot and the toes. Rub the pad underneath your foot and use your thumbs to rub your ankles using gentle circular motions. 
  • Repeat for the other foot.  
  • Finish by pressing your thumbs into the arch and then releasing. Press and release and repeat until your arches feel soothed.  

The DIY back massage

  • Put a tennis ball inside the leg of a pair of nylon tights. Hold the stocking and lean up against a wall. 
  • Slide the tennis ball down between your back and the wall, placing pressure on your back with the tennis ball. Move the ball around your back, pushing back on the ball to ease aches and pains. 
  • If you have aching shoulders, put your right hand on your left shoulder. Find an area of your left shoulder that is tight or tender and clasp it with your right hand. Swing your left arm backwards and forwards, still clasping your shoulder with your right hand. 
  • Change sides, putting your left hand on your right shoulder, clasping any tender area, and swinging your right arm backwards and forwards.   

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