The benefits of self massage

Massage therapy
Effective self massage allows the benefits of practically unlimited massage therapy

Summary

Massage from professional therapists has a huge amount of potential benefits, but these are too often not used because of cost and inconvenience. However, if self massage was an effective alternative this would not be an issue. In this article we look at whether self massage can be effective, and if so the benefits it can give you.

CONTENTS

Can self massage be effective

Self massage that mimics manual massage therapy
Machine massage therapy

The potential benefits of self massage

Rehabilitation and musculosketal pain syndromes
Sports and exercise
Musculoskeltal maintenance
Health and wellness

How to get started

Professional advice
Choose an effective solution
Usage

Can self massage be effective?

There are many forms of self massage. We have massage that mimics the manual therapy of a profession therapist, either with one's own hands or using some tool. We also have two types of machine massagers: those that mimic manual massage and those that use vibration. Lets look at each.

Self massage that mimics manual massage therapy

Manual therapy from a professional therapist is an excellent therapy. However, can it be effective as self massage without a professional therapist's skill, knowledge and training?

Self massage using one's hands

This therapy is limited to only the parts of one's own body that can be easily reached, and to those muscles that are relatively easy to massage. However, in one of our videos we give an example of very effective forearm muscle massage.

Self massage using tools

To deliver manual massage a therapist needs knowledge, skill and tactile sense. The therapist needs to understand what he or she is pressing on, how hard to press, and most importantly whether it is safe. Self users usually do not have this knowledge. In our article on foam rollers we discuss that this is lacking in self in the self application of pressure techniques, and because of this clinical trials of foam roller usage have only produced minor and inconsistant benefits, and their usage has considerable risks. On the other hand, as discussed in our article on a traditional form of thai self massage a self massage tool called a wilia stick was found to be very effective. This was used using a safe simple conservative technique.

Self massage using balls
Self massage using balls or rollers can be difficult, produce mediocre results, and has risks
Self massage tool: Wilai stick
Using this simple tool and a conservative technique was effective (click image for details)

Machine massage therapies

In our article Machine vs hand massage we discuss that there are two types of machine massage therapy: those that mimic manual massage therapy and those that use vibration or percussion therapy.

Massage cushion

Machines that mimic manual massage

These are massagers such as chairs, cushions and some feet massagers. In general, good quality versions can provide some reasonable therapy. Without the skill and knowledge of a professional therapist these are unlikely to be as effective and professionally applied therapy, but they do allow practically unlimited therapy.

Vibration or percussion machines

As we discuss in our article The scientifically proven effects of vibration massage- with clinical applications vibrations delivered by an effective massager penetrate better than manual massage and have excellent benefits. Further, it's application does not require and special massage skill. Therefore, if you follow the correct simple procedure and use an effective machine it should provide excellent benefits.

Potential benefits of self massage

From the previous section we know that self massage enables you to have effective massage therapy without the restriction of cost and needing to attend appointments. Lets look at some areas where this where this would be highly beneficial.

Rehabilitation and musculosketal pain syndromes

As our article on treating (myofascial) trigger points discusses successfully treating most pain syndromes such as back, neck and shoulder pain so it does not keep coming back needs repeated applications of some sort of therapy over a long period of time. This can be expensive and time consuming, so people typically get just enough to relieve the pain, but not eliminate the underlying problem, so the pain keeps coming back. By including self massage in a treatment program one can have the repeated applications needed to fix problems properly.

Sports and exercise

Professional sports clubs and athletes extensively use massage therapy for the following.

  • Warm ups
  • Post exercise and recovery
  • Increasing performance
  • treating injuries and rehabilitation

Please see our Sports and exercise guide to vbration massage for a more complete discussion of the benefits available when self massage is used.

Corporate chair massage
Corporate chair massage: self massage is an alternative

Musculoskeletal maintenance

Many companies including google provide their employees with regular massages to help them avoid pain and injury, and to generally have them feel better and be more productive. As discussed in our article on health and wellness clinical trials have found that this works well. If you don't work for an employer who provides these self massage is an excellent option.

Health and wellness page
Massage for health and wellness (click image)

Health and wellness

Regular massages have also been shown to help with health and wellness related conditions one might not usually associate with massage. However, as discussed in our health and wellness article there are excellent clinical trials showing that regular massage can help:

  • reduce blood pressure
  • reduce anxiety and improve one's psychological state, and
  • improve sleeping

Getting started

Professional advice

We recommend that you get some professional advice.

  • They can advise you of the best management for any condition you may have.
  • They can davise on the appropriate application of the massage.
  • They can ensure that you are safe.

Choose an effective solution

The self massage solution you choose will depend on cost, convenience and what you want to achieve.

Self had massage

Self hand massage is easy, convenient, as suitable for massaging easy to get at parts such as your forearms and hands.

Self massage using tools

If you wish to read the article mentioned above about the traditional Thai self massage that is a useful procedure. However, for the reasons mentioned above we do not recommend the use of balls and foam rollers. Years ago in our chiropractic clinic we used to recommend them, but the results were poor and that many people hurt themselves that it was not funny.

Massage cushions and chairs

While these will never be as good as a massage from a quality massage therapist they still do a reasonable job, are convenient and very easy to use. They would be excellent for a general massage after a hard day's work.

Vibration massagers

These are capable of giving the best, most effective therapeutic massage. They are also easy to use. However, in our video Do massagers (massage guns) work we discuss that a large number of machines built for personal use are poor quality and poorly designed, making the ineffective. You need to watch this video before buying anything.

Usage

Hand massage

Our video on the self massage of forearm muscles has an excellent demonstration of this technique.

Massage cushions and chairs

There is really not much to say here- sit on them.

Vibration massagers

Vibration massage works differently than manual massage, so requires different techniques. Unfortunately too many people apply vibration massage using manual massage techniques, which is a bit like getting a chainsaw and swinging it like an axe. Please see our instructions page for how to use a vibration massager effectively.