|Bol's Eye by Shaun Boland|
A lot of you massage virgins out there might think receiving a massage twice a month is an insane luxury, but for us massage therapists, it's much needed maintenance. Most body workers that leave the industry quit due to repetitive motion injury. I've been in the business for over four years, and I don't think I've ever met a massage therapist that didn't complain about some kind of upper body pain. If your occupation requires you to do any kind of repetitive action on a daily basis (any occupation dealing with computer work, hair stylist, dentist, bicycle messenger, anything requiring you to use your freaking limbs, etc.) massage is suggested at least once a month to keep your body from breaking down.
Not everyone is a massage therapist or knows one willing to make a trade, and few people can afford the expense of a monthly visit to their local spa. So I've done you all a favor by compiling a list of five things you can do for relaxation, muscle strain, and even a few hacks to aid sinus and migraines, while you save up for your next visit...(or wheedle a gift certificate out of your significant other).
1. Yoga, Pilates, or Any Light Exercise
It's the last thing you want to hear when your body is aching and you've had a long day at work, but light exercise is essential to body maintenance for reasons that go beyond burning fat. Muscles require proper blood flow and circulation to do what they need to do (Well, duh, you say. Yeah, I know). Yoga and Pilates are especially recommended because they also aid in flexibility. That's basically what massage does-increase blood circulation and flexibility. I've often suggested to clients that they do a light workout shortly before and after getting any kind of deep tissue work to help loosen and warm up the muscle fibers for this very reason.
2. Epsom Salt Bath
This is the second most common piece of advice a massage therapist will give you once you get out of a massage (The first being, "Drink plenty water!") Magnesium sulfate-commonly known as Epsom salt-has been known to aid in relaxation, reduce muscle aches and inflammation, flushes toxins, has been known to reduce symptoms of acute asthma when used as a bronchodilator, and can relieve migraine, cold, and sinus aches. It does everything but the dishes. It's contraindicated for pregnancy and those suffering from high blood pressure, so talk to your doctor first before trying. And as an added bonus, here's a nice little step by step guide for those of you trying to lose weight. Don't know if it works, but at the very least, you'll get a relaxing bath and soft skin:
How to Bathe in Epsom Salts to Lose Weight by eHow
3. Tennis Balls
Yes, you read that right. Balls. There, I said it. You can stop snickering now. This one is usually suggested for pregnant women with lower back pain, but anyone can use this on any part of their body (Again with the snickering! Cut it out!). This is especially good for those hard to reach places. Golf balls work for this as well.
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4. Aromatherapy Towel Rub
For sinus headaches and migraines: Place a few drops of essential oil on a cold wet towel. Use the towel to rub the back of your neck or set it on your forehead. Rubbing a few drops around the temple and forehead are good too. Eucalyptus and peppermint work best.
For muscle aches: Same as above, only the towel should be warm. Eucalyptus, peppermint, and arnica are only a few oils that work well for this.
For a list of essential oils and their uses, check out Sustainable Baby Steps.
5. Chair Massage
You've probably seen the kiosks at the mall, or if you live in the New Orleans area, at Whole Foods. Chair massage is what I like to call massage with training wheels, because I usually suggest it to people who are leery about getting a table massage. It's a little less scary for first timers because, for one, you don't have to get naked, and two, it's usually done out in the open or at least within screaming distance of a group of people. I also suggest this to clients who are on a strict budget because it's considerably cheaper than a spa massage (somewhere around $1-$2 a minute) and most places will allow you to choose the stop time. If you want five minutes just to see what it's like, you can get five minutes. Just make sure the person you go to is licensed. I'm not sure what the laws are in other states, but in Louisiana, massage therapists must keep their licenses visible at all times.