You may not be able to give yourself the giggles by tickling yourself, but you can tap into the proven health benefits of massage by letting your own fingers do the kneading. There are plenty of reasons to enjoy the oohs and aahs—massage can improve symptoms of health conditions ranging from chronic pain to depression to anxiety, high blood pressure and even painful autoimmune diseases.
With moderate-pressure massage, pressure receptors located directly under the skin are activated, starting a chain reaction that, among other benefits, decreases levels of the “stress hormone” cortisol. That’s the source of many of the benefits. How to tap into these benefits on your own…
Grab a tennis ball. If you’re unsure of how much pressure to apply or if your fingers are stiff, a tennis ball is a perfect (and inexpensive) massage tool. Just hold the ball in one hand, and roll it up and down your legs, across your arms or over any place that needs some kneading. The movements can be circular or back-and-forth. As long as you are moving the skin in front of the ball as it rolls, you’re getting benefit.
For a back massage, stand against a wall and put the tennis ball between the area you want to massage and the wall. Shift your weight from one leg to the other, or slide your back up and down along the wall to roll the ball.
For a foot massage, use your hands or place the ball on the floor and roll one foot over it at a time. Hold on to a table or counter for balance or try it sitting down.
Give yourself an extra hand. Massage tools, available in fitness stores and online, are great for hard-to-reach areas. Examples: Lie down on a cylinder-shaped foam roller, and roll back and forth over it to massage your entire upper body. If you prefer to sit up, try a curved massage stick or wooden massage-beads-on-a-rope.
Enhance the experience with an oil or lotion. You might find this more comfortable than a “dry” massage. Consider a lavender-scented product—lavender is scientifically proven to have a relaxing effect.
Get pro advice. While you certainly don’t need formal training to give yourself a massage, an instructional session with a certified massage therapist will be helpful. You’ll learn new movements to keep the massages interesting and even prevent soreness. To find a massage therapist, contact your state’s licensing board or go to the website of the American Massage Therapy Association and click “find a massage therapist.”