Why DIY Massages Can Hurt More Than Help

November 20, 2017

Massages are a great stress-reliever. As well as being proven to help relax your muscles, they can also help quieten your mind and allow you to take some time to yourself. It’s no wonder then that massages are one of the most sought-after treatments of 2017, and their popularity is only growing.

 

This is probably why a lot of us get massages at home. Because why not skip the professional massage chair? After all, if massage is just about rubbing some muscles, surely your Partner/Willing Victim can put in a bit of elbow grease?

 

Well... 

 

1. DIY Massages Don’t Warm Up The Muscles

 

Think of massage a little bit like exercise. When you’re about to workout, you warm up your muscles first and get them ready for the task at hand. Massage is the same. If you start digging fingers and thumbs into cold muscles, it’s probably going to hurt your partner, more than help them.

 

How to do it safely:

You want to get the muscles loosened up. Start with soft, broad motions using the flat of your hand on the surface of the muscles. The muscles (and the skin around them) will physically warm up when they have been worked for 2-5 minutes in this way. You can help the process along by using warm oils.

 

2. You Get Tired Quickly… So You Improvise

 

You know that feeling when you agree to give someone a massage and then your arms start aching five minutes later? That’s because massages are pretty tough going on the masseuse, as well as the lucky person receiving the massage.

 

When we get tired, we tend to try and recreate the same amount of pressure by using smaller parts of our body. That’s when knuckles and elbows get involved.

 

And this isn’t a good thing - because it’s more likely to hurt you, the masseuse.

 

How to do it safely:

You want to try and avoid cramps, especially in your fingers, because this isn’t comfortable at all! Overworking your thumbs is the quickest way to hurt yourself when giving a massage, but your wrists can also get sore.

 

Avoid using your thumbs (or if you do, use them sparingly, and only on warm muscles!) and instead try the heel of your hands or a loose fist. Try and keep your wrists straight, using your weight (rather than just your arms) to apply pressure.

 

3. They Tend To Focus On The Sides Of The Neck

 

One of the best points in a professional massage is when they work out all the tricky kinks that normally lodge themselves in the top bit of your back, often on either side of your neck.

 

But you need to be careful recreating this at home, because the neck is a very sensitive area that contains a lot of nerve endings. Now, nerves are pretty well protected, so it would be difficult to reach these with your fingers alone. The mistake most people make is using a massage tool (such as a roller) in these areas. When you’re not pressing with your fingers, it’s harder to feel what’s happening underneath the massage, so you’re more likely to hit a sensitive area.

 

How to do it safely:

Always make sure the neck is warmed up using soft, loose motions and then avoid digging anything (thumbs, elbows, tools) into it as these can be harmful. Like we said, it’s very hard to hit a nerve but trust us - you don’t want to try!

 

4. … And The Lower Back

 

The lower back is another problem area, because people often focus their attention around the kidneys, which aren’t too happy when they’re massaged too hard. You’ll find your kidneys just below your ribs, on either side of your spine.

 

Also, because the back is quite a thick muscle, you can make the mistake of applying too much pressure, which can be at best uncomfortable and (at worst) painful.

 

How to do it safely:

Focus your attention instead on the muscles in the back as a whole, using broad movements across the entire back. Always check the pressure with the person you’re massaging and ask them to tell you if anything becomes painful.

 

Some more DIY tips:

 

  • Don’t forget to breathe: whether you’re giving or receiving the massage, keep your breathing steady

  • Try and relax: For both parties, it’s important to relax, otherwise it’ll feel like you’re being massaged by rocks/massaging a rock!

  • Don’t try and help if you’re the one being massaged: When you move, you tense your muscles… which is exactly the opposite of what they are trying to do!

If all of that sounds a bit too much like hard work, you can book a massage with one of our professional therapists here

 

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