Massage Yourself With Therapeutic Exercise

By Anita Boser, LMP, CHP
May 29, 2009

Massage Yourself With Therapeutic Exercise

By Anita Boser, LMP, CHP
May 29, 2009

After a day of giving massage, who wouldn't want to receive one? Hours spent leaning over a table with pressure on fingers and wrists creates muscle adhesions and dehydrates joints. Practitioners can feel stiff after a day of repetitive massage because cartilage, ligaments, and intervertebral discs don't receive direct blood supply and depend on gentle movements to transfer nutrients and waste products.

Wave-like motions will counteract the stagnation and start the process of relaxation. That's where undulations come in: fluid movements through multiple joints that rehydrate tissues and activate deep core muscles. The following undulation exercise is designed to restore joint health in the hands.

Octopus Exercise

  1. Curl and unfurl the fingers and thumb of the hand that you use most often. Imagine you are an octopus waking up the ends of your tentacles.
  2. Move your fingers softly together, then separately.
  3. For a minute or so, see how fluid your fingers can become. Flush out the inflexibility from your knuckles.
  4. Let the movement creep up your hand to incorporate the wrist.
  5. Continue the flow up your arm to include the elbow and then the shoulder.
  6. Let the movement from your fingers, wrist, elbow, and shoulder influence the rest of your body for a minute.

    Now compare sides. The hand and arm that has had the benefit of undulation probably feels looser, lighter and healthier. That's because you've counteracted muscular tension and created a fluid exchange, which has removed waste products with movement.

  7. Now repeat the sequence with your other hand until you feel balanced.
  8. Move both hands and arms. (Imagine an octopus swimming in the ocean.)
  9. Sit or lie with your hands in your lap; feel softness in your joints. Resting is an important part of healing.

Movement doesn't have to be big in order to be beneficial. Tiny movements are needed to soften the tiny muscles around the spine that get constricted when leaning forward. The following exercise activates these muscles in a new pattern and cleanses the surrounding connective tissue. The movements are subtle, but, like a good massage, the effects are not.

Back Massage

  1. Lie on your back on a hard surface with knees bent and feet on the ground.
  2. Press your tailbone to the floor for a count of three and release.
  3. Press your sacrum to the floor for a count of three and release.
  4. Press your right hip to the floor for a count of three and release. Then three counts with your left hip, and release.
  5. Progress up your back about 2 inches at a time; press one side down and then the other. Hold each for a count of three and rest in between.
  6. When you get to your neck, go back down to get any spots that feel missed, especially the sticky spots around the shoulder blades. Hold the pressure for the amount of time that feels right.
  7. Wriggle around in all different directions: lift off the floor, press into it, twist, turn, and roll. Enjoy that your body can move as well as it does.
  8. Lie on your tummy for a short period of time and rest. Imagine any remaining tension floating away into the air.

Fluid motions transform rigidity, allowing the tissues to breathe, open and let go. Try giving a massage with octopus arms and notice how much more easily your clients' tissues melt. Let movement flow through your spine as you work so you can receive the benefits, too.