Self-Care Tips and Massage Therapy
As massage therapists, we tend to vocalize the value and importance of self-care with our clients, because we see firsthand what a pivotal role it plays in the optimal functioning of the body. Clearly, from the profession we have chosen, we are big believers in the benefits of massage therapy. That being said, we cannot emphasize enough how self-care in one’s personal life is just as important as integrating alternative therapies into one’s lifestyle. Proper hydration, regular exercise, a balanced diet, adequate rest and many other life choices are all important equations to the mix.
If you find yourself perpetually suffering from chronic pain, muscle soreness or stiffness in the joints, headaches and migraines, or general stress, then some of the following self-care practices are worth exploring. Certain medical conditions may require avoiding these techniques, so always consult with your doctor before trying them.
Hot or Cold Hydrotherapy
While you may not be able to get the focused accuracy of hot stone therapy by a licensed massage therapist in the comfort of your home, you can make use of hot and cold self-care techniques.
A cool or cold compress, shower or bath, or even one of the few rarely used ice packs you have in your freezer are all potentially great tools one can use to manage or reduce inflammation, soothe aching muscles, help calm a headache, or may just be a great way to cool off during a hot summer day.
On the other hand, a warm or hot bath with Epsom salts can help reduce aching, sore muscles. For hundreds of years, this salt has been used to treat ailments, such as constipation, insomnia, and fibromyalgia. Unfortunately, its effects on these conditions are not well researched.
Most of the reported benefits of Epsom salt are attributed to its magnesium, a mineral that a lot of people do not get enough of.
For those that do not enjoy taking baths or simply don’t have a bathtub at home, they can explore other methods for magnesium intake like Natural Calm powder.
There are ways to strategically combine Hot and Cold techniques in what is called contrast hydrotherapy. One way is to repeatedly follow up a heat application to an area, which expands the blood vessels, with a cold application, which constricts the vessels. This creates a circulatory pump effect in an effort to manage inflammation and can manage symptoms of headaches and tissue restrictions by encouraging rapid blood flow, and thus the flushing of toxins and metabolic waste from affected tissues.
Another approach is to place a cold compress on an inflamed area and a hot compress on a larger body area. Usually an area with as much or more surface area than the target area is utilized. For example: one could apply a cold compress to a sore or inflamed knee and a hot pack to the above thigh, nearer to the waist. The simultaneous cold and heat treatment pushes blood away from the inflamed area, and towards the area of the body being warmed by the heat.
Focused exercise to strengthen, support, protect the body is a crucial element to maintaining and improving postural and musculoskeletal health. Yoga, jogging, or just fifteen minutes of vigorous daily walking can have significant positive effects on one’s circulation, respiration, anxiety/stress levels, and more! Developing a daily or weekly routine, and slowly increasing the levels of intensity is often a great approach. Physical Therapists can help design a regiment for you with respect to your goals.
We have all heard about stretching before and after workouts, sports, or hikes, but did you know the same principle can help the effectiveness of massage therapy? By including some light stretching in your daily routine not only will you feel more mobile, limber, and alert, but your energy levels will typically increase and overall quality of restful sleep will likely improve!
Do you know that feeling when you’ve slept too long and your body aches? Maybe that spot you were resting on your shoulder is especially sore? Well in a broader sense all of your joints can be affected by the lack of movement, which can in turn negatively impact your ability to do so. By performing some focused joint mobilizations (remember arm circles in gym class?) you have the ability to maintain or improve available range of motion and the overall quality of joint health.
One of the best ways to extend the benefits of massage therapy is to perform some soft tissue massage on yourself! Kneading, gliding, tapping, skin rolling, or even Myofascial Release can be done where accessible on one’s own body! There are devices that consumers can purchase to do self-massage; the classic airport massage chair is a common example, as is the “shiatsu” foot massage machine. The options are nearly endless. However, a simple foam roller, rolling pin, Tennis or Lacrosse Ball, or even a wooden spoon all can be utilized.
Some additional quick tips:
In the Pacific Northwest it is often suggested to check and monitor levels of Vitamin D3
Consult your Primary Care Provider in regards to potential dietary adjustments or supplements that can further support your goals.
And last but most certainly not least – meditation. This practice can take as many different forms and can change over time. Nature immersion (forest bathing), enjoying or creating art and music, some martial arts, chanting, or simply a breathing exercise routine are just a few of the possibilities to consider. Figuring out which is right for you is an exciting part of the journey!