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Self-massage: a few simple steps

by Charlotte Hoddge ,
Self-massage: a few simple steps© Shutterstock

Easy self massage

The soaring popularity of massage is no surprise given the many benefits it has for body and mind, from relaxation and pain relief to stimulation.

Massage doesn't come cheap, though. If you shelled out for a massage every time you had swollen ankles or a stiff neck, you'd soon be broke!

Ever thought about DIY massage? If you do it properly and follow specific techniques, self-massage is a great way to relieve minor aches, pains and stress.

Read up on the basics of self-massage, find out how to use it to overcome aches and pains and stress in the workplace.

Where it works

Massage manipulates the body's soft tissue (skin, fat and muscle) and connective tissue that keep the organs and bone structure in place. They affect 3 of the body's systems:

> Circulation. Starting at the heart, blood circulates the body in a figure of eight, supplying each of the body's cells on its way, as well as draining toxic waste away.

> Muscles, bones and joints (the basic structure of the body).

> The lymphatic system. This network of vessels, filled with liquid (lymph), ganglions and specialised organs (such as amygdales) allow the body to cleanse itself, unblock tissue and defend itself against illness.

The Equipment

To make self-massage easier and to help you get to those hard-to-reach spots, accessories such as foot rollers, body massagers, anti-stress balls and Chinese hand balls can come in handy.

Oils are ideal for certain massages because they make it easier to slide your hands over your skin. Basic oils (sweet almond, evening primrose, jojoba...) can be used to dilute pure essential oils (rosemary, lavander, eucalyptus...) which have additional relaxing and stimulating benefits. Just test them before using if you have sensitive skin.

Basic Techniques

A massage isn't something that should be improvised. Correct massage involves specific movements: light, gentle stroking, applied pressure, deep kneading, energetic and stimulating tapping and warming friction...

Depending on the area, you can massage with your hands, palms or fingertips.

Most massage techniques are inspired by gentle, traditional therapies like reflexology, acupuncture and shiatsu.


> Sit on your own for a few minutes in a quiet place. Breathe deeply through your abdomen before starting your massage.

> Sit or lie yourself down comfortably. Remove anything tight (belt, watch and jewellery).

> Don't have a heavy meal before or after your massage, but make sure you drink lots of water or detoxifying herbal/fruit tea to help eliminate toxins.

> If you feel sudden pain or dizziness, stop immediately. A massage shouldn't be unpleasant: it should induce feelings of wellbeing! Don't be worried, however, about "normal" side effects such as mild headaches or excessive sweating.

> Self-massage isn't risk-free and you can hurt yourself! If you recently had an operation or injury, are pregnant, suffer from contagious skin problems, varicose veins, migraines, arthritis, fragile bones or swollen lymph glands, take precautions, massage with care and ask your doctor if you have any doubts.

Over coming day-day problems

Swollen ankles

1-Sit down on the floor and bend one knee so you can reach your ankle. If possible, place your foot flat on the floor. Slide the palms of your hands from your foot up to your knee, making slow, gentle movements.

2-Massage around the malleolli (the bony parts on each side of the ankles) with two fingers. Make smooth, flowing movements around the ankle, 6 times in a clockwise direction then 6 times anti-clockwise.

3-Use 2 or more fingers to make small kneading and rotating movements around the malleolli. Massage both sides at the same time in a clockwise direction. Repeat 3 times.

4-Place your hands behind your ankle and gently knead your Achilles tendon with your fingertips. Go up and down both sides of the tendon between the heel and calf. Apply light, pleasant pressure.

5-Repeat on the other ankle.


1-Lie down on your back and place one of your palms on your abdomen. Use your flat fingers to make a small clockwise motion around your belly button. Start by applying light pressure and increase it gradually, drawing 4 circles.

2-Place one hand on top of the other and draw bigger circles using your palms. Make the circles big enough so that they cover your whole abdomen. Be quite firm with your movements and keep them clockwise so that you follow the direction of your large intestine. Repeat 4 times.

3-Use the fingers on one hand only to make small rotating movements that go in the same direction as before (only draw one circle).

4-Gently knead your abdomen with your thumbs and index fingers. Alternate your hands, raising releasing your skin.

5-Soothe your abdominal area by applying light, gliding pressure from left to right, using first one hand and then the next, making a wave-like movement. Do this for as long as you like.

6-Finish the sequence by placing your palms just under your belly button, the tips of your fingers touching. Hold for 1 minute, breathing slowly and deeply. Release.


1-Stand about 50cm from a wall and place your hands on the wall. Place the leg with cramp behind you as far as you can without creating tension. Keep your feet flat on the floor. Bend the front knee and lean gradually against the wall, without lifting your rear heel. Feel the calf stretch and the gradual release of the cramp. Maintain your position for at least 10 seconds.

2-Sit down with both legs stretched out in front of you, with the leg with cramp placed on top of the other leg. Knead your calf muscle with one or both hands. Press and roll the muscle firmly between your fingers. Finish by applying sliding pressure that goes all the way from the ankle to the knee to restore blood flow to the heart.

Source: A Practical Guide to Self-Massage, CICO Books.


1- Massage your fingertips, which correspond to the area around your eyes and sinuses. This will relax you and empty your mind.

2-Press each finger against the thumb of the opposite hand, applying force, for 5 minutes.

Source: 10 minutes to zen, Flammarion.

Tired eyes

1-Rub your hands together to warm them up. Cover your eyes with the palms of your hands and close your fingers to make it as dark as possible. Enjoy the warmth and darkness for 2 to 3 minutes.

2-Move your hands gently from your cheeks to your ears to help stimulate blood flow in this area. Repeat 6 times.

3-Place the tip of your index and middle fingers just above the inner edges of your eyebrows. Without moving your fingers, apply pressure towards the outer corner of the eyebrow. Press, hold and release. Sweep your fingers under your eyes (avoiding the fragile skin around the eye), from the inside to the outside of the face. Once at the end, return to the starting position and repeat 3 times. Next, apply sliding pressure on your eyebrows.

4-Gently tap the area around your eyes, using all of your fingertips. Finish by blinking several times, shutting your eyes tightly.

Source: A Practical Guide to Self-Massage, CICO Books.

Stiff neck

1-Either sitting or standing, move your arms above your chest and glide your fingers lightly along the line between the base of your head and your shoulder, stroking down the length of your neck. Repeat several times. Lean your head slightly towards the opposite shoulder, repeat, then massage the other shoulder.

2-Place the heel of your hand at the base of your neck and let your fingers drop down on each side of your spine. Grab hold of your muscles with your fingertips, pull upwards and hold between your palms and fingers. Repeat along the length of your shoulders.

3-Wrap the fingers of both hands around the nape of your neck. Stretch the muscles on both sides of your spine and squeeze them between your palm and fingers. Squeeze as you go down from the base of your head to the bottom of the neck. Repeat several times.

Source: Massage in all its forms, Le courrier du livre.


1-Rub your head, applying fairly strong rotating pressure, as if you were massaging in shampoo, paying attention to your scalp. Any tension will be released and little by little, you'll start to feel relaxed.

2-Using your fingers, massage your forehead, the area around your eyebrows and your temples for 2 to 3 minutes.

Source: 10 minutes for yourself, Flammarion.


1-Sit up straight and breathe deeply several times.

2-Place the fingertips of your left hand just below your breastbone. This is your solar plexus, the point where a whole network of nerves meets. Hold the position while you breathe in and out 2 or 3 times to calm and relax your whole nervous system. Release and start again. Breathe slowly and calmly.

3-With light pressure from the fingers of your left hand, draw 10 small circles on your solar plexus in a clockwise direction.

Source: A Practical Guide to Self-Massage, CICO Books.

Charlotte Hoddge
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