Updated: Mar 12
by Chelsey Gilbert, LMT
As a Licensed Massage Therapist that has been practicing since 2017, I have learned many easy and affordable at home self care techniques. Self care does not have to be complicated or daunting. Some of the most simple and intuitive things can be profoundly helpful when done consistently. These suggested techniques allow the body to continue to correct itself between bodywork sessions. You can take self care into your own hands!!
Hot and Cold Therapy
This is one of those tools that is so simple, most people forget that they have it at their disposal. There are many benefits of both hot and cold therapy. I would argue utilizing cold is one of the more forgotten pain relief aids. While heat can aid in relaxation and loosening muscular tension, cold is a great way to relieve the swelling and inflammation that can cause pain and discomfort.
Research has shown that taking a 3 minute cold shower daily can help to boost your immune function, relieve muscle soreness, decrease recovery time between workouts, improve circulation and more. For those who don't feel like jumping into a cold shower, cold compresses are great for treating local aches and pains, and decreasing swelling or inflammation that may be associated with a recent injury. Do you have a bag of peas in your freezer that has been sitting there for a while? Great! You have your very own cold compress. Overall, using cold is typically much better for acute pain (think of waking up with a sore neck or muscle soreness from doing too much yard work), strains and sprains and helping to increase recovery time.
Heat, on the other hand, is great for chronic aches and pains. When used locally, like with a warm compress or heating pad, it will increase circulation to the area and have an overall relaxing effect. Hot tubs and Hot showers are also a commonly utilized heat therapy. One of my household favorites is a sock, filled with rice and then thrown in the microwave for 30 - 60 seconds. My kids love the relaxing heat and weight, and it helps them fall asleep! Try adding a couple of drops of essential oil to make it even more relaxing.
Alternating cold and heat can be beneficial as well, and is oftentimes recommended by physical therapists. It's all about finding what is right for your body in the moment.
Tennis balls and Trigger Points
We are all familiar with that sensation when a skilled massage therapist rolls over a trigger point with a thumb or an elbow. A common response is “I didn't even know that part of my body was sore!”. Trigger points, sometimes known as knots, are areas in the muscle or connective tissue that are chronically tight, have adhesions through the tissue or have various ranges of distorted sensitivity. Trigger points often have pain referral patterns but can vary on how they feel, depending on the person.
The most common technique to relieve trigger points is deep, static pressure. Massage therapists or Physical Therapists may use fingers, knuckles or elbows. Fortunately, there are cheap and effective at home tools that you can experiment with to get some relief between bodywork sessions.
Tennis balls are extremely effective in targeting trigger points on the back, shoulders, glutes and hamstrings. Tying off a couple of tennis balls in a sock makes positioning them behind you while standing much easier. Trigger point canes are helpful as well. “Theracane” is a popular brand. Using the corner of a wall can be just as effective, and much cheaper. Foam rollers or rolled up towels can be used while on the floor for firm deep and consistent pressure that may help your body to release the tension of the trigger point.
There are many other honorable mentions that I will touch on in later blogs. Yoga, walking, proper hydration and nutrition and getting enough sleep are a few. The idea is that we are all able to become empowered in our own healing journey. Self care plays a huge role in that empowerment. What type of self care have you done recently? How would you like to improve your self care routine? What simple things can be incorporated to help you take care of YOU more effectively?
If you are interested in investing in yourself, check out these links
Trigger Point tools