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4 Self-massage techniques

By Medisys on April 27 2020 | Physical Health

If massage therapy, acupuncture or chiropractic care was part of your self-care routine before the COVID-19 outbreak, it’s probably one of the rituals you’re most longing to return to. But even if you’ve never experienced professional bodywork, odds are your muscles are feeling the burden of stress, poor sleep or a less-than ideal home office setup these days.

Fortunately, we can reap some of the incredible benefits of massage therapy at home with nothing but a tennis ball or a softer, dollar-store-type bouncy ball. We spoke with Vancouver based RMT and online fitness coach Anne Jones, who shared four expert self-massage techniques to help release tension and common pain points:

1. Rolling Interscapular Area (between shoulder blades)

An achy upper back is one of the most common complaints Jones hears in her practice, and almost all of us could benefit from some gentle massage or release in this area.

  • Setup: Begin standing with your back to a wall, with your massage ball between your body and the wall, positioned between your right shoulder blade and your spine.
  • Movement: Bend your knees, doing mini squats, to roll the ball up and down between your back and the wall, as high as the base of your neck and as low as the bottom of your shoulder blade. Do this for 1-2 minutes, then repeat on the opposite side.
  • Need more intensity? Begin lying on your back with your knees bent, your feet on the floor and your ball under your body, between your right shoulder blade and your spine. Interlace your fingers behind your head to support it. You can stay here and breathe into the sensation for 1-2 minutes before switching sides.


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2. Rolling Glutes

Tight glute muscles can be a source of pain in various parts of the body. Releasing them can achieve major relief!
  • Setup: Begin lying on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Place the ball under your right bum cheek, between it and the floor. Interlace your fingers behind your head to support it.
  • Movement: Push into your feet to move your pelvis over the ball. Try to cover the entire surface of your right seat. Think of it like a map of Canada: Take the ball all the way to the northernmost border (near the top of your pelvis), all the way South (towards your sitting bone), all the way East (towards the outside of your hip and thigh bone), and all the way West (towards your sacrum and the centre of your bum). Do this for 1-2 minutes on each side.
  • Need more intensity? Begin sitting with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.


3. Sub Occipital Release

Tension at the base of the skull is very common and often a culprit of tension headaches. This technique is a powerful release during times of stress and extended computer use.

  • Setup: Place your massage ball on top of an object a couple of inches high, like a yoga block or a fat book or two. Locate the soft(ish) spot where your neck meets the right side of your skull. Lie on your back and place that exact area on your ball.
  • Movement: Lying still, breathing, and letting your skull release onto the ball may be enough sensation. Stay here until the sensation and tenderness reduce significantly or completely. Then, turn your head slightly to find a new spot and repeat. It is best to relax in this position until the sensation completely reduces, to prevent it from returning. When you are done, sit or lie down and do some subtle nods of the head to reset these muscles. Repeat on the other side.


4. Pin & Stretch Pecs (chest muscles)

Our pectorals or chest muscles can get short and tight from holding them in the same positions with our arms in front of us for hours. (Think driving, texting, typing, washing dishes, etc.) Releasing these muscles can also allow us to stand up a little straighter, decreasing their pull on our upper backs.

  • Setup: From a seated position, make an L shape with your right hand. Lift your left arm and place your right fingertips in your armpit and your thumb on the front of your chest. Completely relax your left arm in your lap.
  • Movement: Massage your pectoral muscle between your fingers and thumb. If/when you find something tender, gently grip/pinch it. Slowly extend your bent left arm to the left, like you are elbowing someone in slow motion. Bring it back towards the centre of your body. Repeat until the tender sensation decreases completely or almost completely. You can find new ‘trigger points’ and repeat this action as much as you would like, on both sides.


Yoga is another great way to release muscle tension. Medisys supported by TELUS Health is excited to offer complimentary yoga classes while we practice physical distancing. The #StayHome Virtual Yoga Series provides a gentle, low-impact practice to leave you.

Register to a #StayHome Virtual Yoga Class