Massage Your Way Out Of Pain

Do you suffer from:

  • head including migraine?
  • backache?
  • arthritic pain?
  • knee pain?
  • hip pain?
  • RSI?
  • tendonitis?
  • golf or tennis elbow?
  • any other kind of long term (chronic) pain?

Then learn to treat these yourself and to live a life without pain or painkillers.

Almost all pain, particularly chronic pain has it's origins in excessively tight areas within the muscular system. The most effective method for releasing those tight trigger points in muscles is by massage. Massage has no side effects and works directly on the cause of the problems leading to pain and also loss of mobility in joints and by far the most qualified person to apply that massage is you.

Why am I my best therapist?

  • Only you can feel exactly what is going on when pressure is applied
  • Only you can apply the right amount of pressure to exactly the right place to make the massage effective.
  • Only you have the ability to apply that massage 2-3 times a day for the few days or weeks that is necessary to banish that pain
  • Only you will do all that work and not cost you any money!

So what are the disadvantages?

There are only two. Firstly some areas of the body are hard to reach and to treat. There are ways around this we'll look at shortly. But most importantly – you do not know the right places to apply the massage.

Many books and articles will tell you to massage where it hurts. In a manner of speaking that's correct but it's also so so wrong. The problem is that the muscular trigger points that are the cause of the pain are often near the pain itself. Most of the pain we feel is reported pain – the source of the pain is not where it hurts. A great example of this is the scalenes. These are muscles in the side of your neck tight against the cervical vertebrae. You will never feel pain in these muscles yet they are constantly supporting the weight of your head and are usually very tense. This tension shows up all over the upper body in places such as the head, shoulder, upper back, chest, arms and even hands. Because the pain is nowhere near the neck these important muscles are usually missed in treatment plans and so the problem is often misdiagnosed. Some of these misdiagnoses include arthritis, tendonitis and RSI. Any treatment that ignores the scalenes has little or no chance of succeeding and so can only offer temporary relief at best. Many unfortunate people have spent months or years trying different therapies and medical interventions and spent large sums of money when some self treatment on their neck may have been all that was needed.

Any competent physical therapist, particularly one trained in trigger point therapy should be able to find the problem areas that are really causing your pain. With this knowledge it's a simple matter to keep on top of the therapy yourself. You could spend time locating these points yourself but there would be a lot of trial and error involved. However, along the way you will also be releasing tensions in muscles you did not know you had and that might, one day, have caused you major problems. Prevention is so much better than cure.

Where do I start looking?

Tracking down the problem areas that are causing pain and loss of mobility can be tricky and time consuming. Good therapists will have a short list of places to look depending on the site of pain. More often than not the problems will be quite close to the pain site but, as mentioned earlier with the scalenes in the neck, they can be a long way away. Having said that massaging any place that feels painful to the touch will help to release the tensions in that point and even if they're not directly related to your problem they will help decrease your overall tension and may prevent problems cropping up in the future.

Other benefits of regular self massage include:

  • General reduction in levels of tension
  • Improved sleep patterns
  • Improved skin tone
  • Increased knowledge of your own body. You will learn to feel quickly when something does not feel right.
  • Helps prepare the body for exercise and can remove the lactic acid build up after exercise that causes muscle soreness.

How do I do it?

Trigger points, that is places on a muscles that are holding onto a lot of tension are best released through firm massage. They will be tender to touch and that is essentially a definition of a trigger point. So you explore the areas around the site of pain for places that feel painful. Sometimes when you press on one of these places you will feel referred pain or tingling in the problem area. This is a clear sign that you've found one of the main problem points. However, just because a painful trigger point does not refer pain to where you're hurting that does not mean that the point you've found is not contributing to your problem.

You need to start getting to know your body inch by inch by touch. Deep, penetrating massage is the key and you should spend a good 10-30 seconds working on any tender areas. Some say you should massage all the way down to the bones but on many, very tense people that may not be achievable for quite some time particularly in areas like the legs.

Here are some pointers to help you on your journey of self discovery:

  • Be firm with your massage and try to massage at around 70-80% of your pain threshold.
  • Knots in muscles often respond best to being massed in one particular direction, Experiment to see which direction is best for that area – it depends on which direction the muscle fibers are running in.
  • For your back and other out-of-reach areas a small child's rubber ball can be invaluable. Put it in a sock then hang it over your shoulder and rub your back against a wall. The ball will penetrate and massage the tight muscles. The sock will stop you from constantly dropping the ball and having to pick it up again. The same trick is good for hips and shoulders as well. In hips particularly much of the tension may be very deep and your fingers and thumbs may not be strong enough.
  • Be kind to your fingers and hands. Try to vary the part of your hand you massage with. Experiment with knuckles, elbows, wrist etc as well as fingers and thumbs depending on which part of the body you are trying to reach. If you have to use fingers try to support them with the other hand.
  • Try to put next a good 20 minutes every day for this. Within a short space of time you will get to know your body much better and will know which areas are chronically tense and need your attention. Only regular massage will release that tension long term, free you of your pain and enable fuller movement of the joint.
  • Some people prefer to start at the head and work down, others start at the feet and work up. If time is limited you could vary this day to day so some days you're doing the upper body and other days the lower body.

Remember regular, firm massage is the key to really looking after your body. It works with so many different types of pain because you are directly treating the cause of the pain. You're not just numbing it with drugs. Regular practice of this will mean you can ditch the drugs and enjoy a fuller life, free of pain and with fully working joints.