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DIY Massage for Good Health

Massage doesn’t just feel good, it’s good for you

Foot massage

Looking for an excuse to get a massage? In the current, pamper-centric society, it is common knowledge that massage helps soothe sore muscles and just plain feels good. More recent information, however, shows that a good rubdown can reduce stress and anxiety, relieve pain, boost your immune system and promote healing.

According to research from the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn., massage can reduce anxiety in depressed children, minimize withdrawal symptoms in adults who are trying to quit smoking or stop drinking, decrease pain in people suffering from fibromyalgia, migraines and recent surgeries and encourage weight gain in premature babies. In addition, people with HIV who participated in massage studies showed an increased number of natural killer cells, the body’s frontline soldiers against viral cells.

While nothing compares to a proper massage from a licensed professional, if you’re low on cash or you simply need relief now, there are a few techniques that can help you actually rub yourself the right way.

“Trying to massage yourself with your hands is a little counterproductive because you have to engage your muscles to do the work,” says Steve Alberston, a licensed massage therapist and professional member of the American Massage Therapy Association in Evanston, Ill. Instead, Albertson suggests enlisting the aid of a simple, cheap tool, such as the hook end of an umbrella or a tennis ball. “Place the tennis ball between your back and a wall; then roll it around until you hit that sweet spot and hold for about 10 seconds.” If you’re willing to make more of an investment, try a TheraCane, a simple, plastic hook-shaped device that allows you to apply deep compression directly against hard-to-reach knots in your back. No tool handy? You can also use the edge of a doorframe.

However, while many back-pain sufferers complain about that burning sensation between the shoulder blades and the spine, for most people, explains Albertson, the problem isn’t in their back, but up front. “Most back pain is caused by repetitive, dysfunctional actions, such as cradling a phone so that your head is perched to the side or collapsing forward as you type at a computer that, biomechanically, just aren’t very good for you,” says Albertson. “Muscles work in pairs; when the muscles of the arms and chest shorten, the muscles of the back must elongate to compensate.”

He compares it to a dysfunctional couple, one lazy and sitting on the couch, the other one working all day long. Which one is going to end up fatigued and screaming for help?

As a quick-fix remedy, Albertson suggests taking frequent breaks and engaging in an action opposite to the one your body is used to. For example, if you normally spend hours at your desk, find a surface – a stability ball, a bench or perhaps even that desk – that allows you to lie on your back with your arms hanging down at your sides so that you open up the chest.

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