Between talking, texting, typing, and cross-training, life can really take a toll on your body. It’s no wonder that prescription pain medication sales have jumped 90 percent since 1997, according to an Associated Press investigation. That’s a lot of pills, especially when massage can be just as effective in some cases, and almost free. Whether it’s your head, shoulders, knees, or feet that need attention, there’s an easy massage you can give yourself, no expensive meds required.
Trouble Spot: Your hands
The Solution: A wrist workout
Sitting at a desk all day long can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome, irritation of a nerve in your wrist and fingers, but this series of exercises, ideally done every hour, can prevent pain from creeping into your day.
1. Hold your left hand up, palm facing outward. Using your right hand, pull the fingers back toward your wrist until you feel a stretch, and hold that position for 5 seconds. Repeat the stretch on your right hand.
2. Press the palms of your hands together at chest height. Lower them towards your lap until you feel the stretch in your wrists. Hold for 5 seconds.
3. Spread your fingers wide for 5 seconds.
4. On your left hand, gently pull the thumb back toward your wrist until you feel the stretch. Hold it for 5 seconds, and then repeat the move on your right hand.
5. Curl your fingers into a fist: Start with your pinky finger, and gradually fold the remaining four fingers into a fist. Then curl your wrists inward until you feel the stretch, and hold it for 5 seconds.
6. Massage the inside and outside of each hand, and then gently shake them out.
Trouble Spot: Your feet
The Solution: A tennis ball and a frozen water bottle
Whether you have a job that requires you to be on your feet all day or you’re a devoted runner, lots of factors can play into foot pain. The key to keeping it at bay is to massage and ice those feet after a hard day (or a long run). Massage your feet with the tennis ball: Place it under one heel, and then stand and sink your body weight onto the ball. Slowly roll the ball from the heel to the base of the toes, spreading your toes wide when the ball passes near. Repeat on the opposite foot. A soup can or a golf ball can also work if you don’t have a tennis ball handy. Use the water bottle to ice your feet down afterward, rolling it back and forth under each foot.
Trouble Spot: Your shoulders or back
The Solution: Another tennis ball
This basic massage move will help anyone who sits hunched in front of a computer screen all day or suffers from back pain. Lay on the floor with a tennis ball placed near the area that hurts most, such as your lower back or the spot between your shoulder blades. Roll the tennis ball around until you hit the spot that’s most tender, and lie there for 1 to 5 minutes, or until you feel your muscles relax.
Trouble Spot: Your knees
The Solution: A foam roller
Made from hard foam, these rollers will run you anywhere from $11 to $19 at most sporting goods stores, but you can also just go to your local hardware store and buy a piece of PVC pipe to pick up a discounted version. When you place a foam roller or the pipe underneath your muscles, the pressure gives your muscles a much deeper massage than you’ll get from simply rubbing them.
How does that help your knees? Foam rollers help massage muscles that, when tight, can lead to knee pain. One is your iliotibial band, commonly called the IT band, which is a tough strip of connective tissue that runs down the outside of your thigh, starting on your hip bone and connecting just below your knee, writes Jordan D. Metzl, MD, in the Men’s Health Athletes Book of Home Remedies. When it gets tight, it can lead to knee pain.
To fix that, lie on your right side and place your right hip on your roller. Put your hands on the floor for support. Cross your left leg over your right and place your left foot flat on the floor. Roll your body to your right, allowing the roller to move from your hip to your knee as it massages the entire length of your outer thigh. Then roll back and forth for 30 seconds. Switch to your left side and repeat with the roller under your left hip.
Whenever you get to a sore spot, stop. Applying extra pressure to sore areas will help release tension.