How to ease muscle tension and pain at home
What to do if you are missing the benefits of your regular massage
If you have a regular massage with a Holistic Therapist hopefully it’s only a matter of weeks before you can relax again on their massage couch and reap the benefits of a wonderful holistic treatment. Some of my clients are really suffering with tight, tense and painful muscles. Especially in the back, shoulders and neck. Muscle tension is usually caused when the muscle contracts and doesn’t release.
It’s been so long since many have seen a professional. If you will be crawling your way back onto the massage couch here are some tips to ease pain and tightness in the interim (especially for the back, neck and shoulders).
Application of hot & cold
Hot and cold compresses can work wonders. Heat is great for muscle tightness, stiff joints and to relax muscles. Cold effectively reduces swelling and inflammation and can help to numb sharp pain. For hot you could use a hot water bottle (encased in its proper cover) or a hot flannel. For cold you could use a freezer ice pack wrapped in a cloth or a cold flannel wrung out. If you need to treat a larger area use a folded towel that’s been in hot or cold water and wrung out. Always protect your skin, don’t put ice or a hot water bottle which is not in its cover directly on your skin. They should always be wrapped in a cloth or towel. Apply to the painful area for fifteen minutes several times a day (fifteen minutes hot compress, followed by fifteen minutes cold compress) It is perfectly normal for skin to look a little pinker after using hot and cold. Always let skin return to it’s normal temperature and colour before applying the next compress.
Not only will the hot water aid muscle relaxation by loosening the muscle fibres, it is also incredibly soothing for the nervous system. If you don’t have a bath at home stand under the jet of water in your shower. Aim it at any aching muscles. Remember though, do not have the water too hot.
Add epsom salts to your bath. These are the mineral magnesium sulfate. It acts as a sedative for the nervous system, as well as lowering the amount of lactic acid which has built up in the muscle fibres. There are lots of varieties of epsom salts on the market that contain different essential oils too but good old fashion epsom salts are perfect.
Look at your pillow. Try to stick to a small, flat, firm pillow if possible to keep your neck in a neutral position whilst sleeping.
Move your body regularly. When experiencing pain there is often a tendency to reduce movement, due to fear of causing more pain. But gentle movement can certainly help mobilise muscles. If you are sitting down a lot for work, try to make a concerted effort to get up every hour and move around for five or ten minutes. Walking is a very effective form of movement. Pair this with some simple stretches and small movements. If you scroll through my blogs you will find a piece I wrote about stretches to specifically help back, neck and shoulder pain with accompanying illustrations.
Progressive muscle relaxation is a technique to help ease muscle tension. Breathe in and tense each muscle group in turn (for example the gluteal muscles of the bottom) and hold for five seconds, then breathe out and release the muscles quickly. You could do this from the bottom of your body and work your way up to your shoulders. Repeat this as often as you feel you need to.
Massage temples with fore fingers and middle fingers in circular motions or in a figure of eight movement. Use your fingers to massage your scalp, tug at your hair. Massage your neck and shoulders with your finger tips.
I mention above about a blog I previously wrote about stretches for back, neck and shoulder pain. Scroll through to find it. Be sure to hold each stretch for at least thirty seconds. Opt for yoga, meditation, pilates as these can help to relieve tension and stretch the muscles out as well as lower stress levels. Use resistance bands to help further your stretches or make the stretches a bit easier.
I talk about the effects of stress quite a lot. If possible try to reduce some of the stress in your daily life. I’ve written an article sharing some stress busing tips in a previous blog. Scroll through my blogs to find it. Stress can inadvertently tense up the muscles, especially those in your back, neck and shoulders.
Try to stay aware of your posture throughout the day. Do you spend a lot of time looking down at your phone? Is your laptop/computer at the right height/angle? Do you wear your shoulders as earrings? Actively try to lower your shoulders down away from your ears and avoid a hunched posture.
Avoid muscle overuse
Try not to overuse your muscles if you are aching or in pain. Avoid high impact activities until the pain goes away. Opt for more gentle forms of exercise – walking, stretching, yoga, pilates, swimming.
If you are in pain I really hope that at least one of these tips above will help you.
As a Holistic Therapist I am really looking forward to getting my hands back onto my clients.