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How to give yourself one heck of a killer massage

Aug. 1, 2014 at 10:45 AM ET

No time to get a massage? Work out the knots on your own with these pointers.

“There are many self-care techniques you can try for relaxation or to soothe achy muscles,” says Jennifer Durkin, a massage therapist at Soothe Massage Therapy in Worcester, Mass. “And you don’t need expensive equipment or lots of time.” Whenever you feel sore or need to de-stress, give yourself some TLC with these mini-massages:

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Tension headache? Here's how to work it out yourself.

Head/ Scalp
“Scalp massage is something you can do anywhere, any time, to relax and feel refreshed,” says Alice Sanvito, massage therapist at Massage St. Louis in St. Louis, Mo. Place the heel of your palms under your hair on either side of your head near your temples. Push the scalp up toward the ceiling, hold a few seconds, and release. Work in sections across your entire scalp.

Face
“This feels good if you have a tension headache starting,” says Durkin. Use your fingertips to lightly draw little circles along your hairline, cheekbones, above your eyebrows, and where your jaw connects. Gently rub your ears and earlobes between your fingertips.

Hands/ Forearms
Too much texting? Relax one arm, palm up, on top of your thigh. Push the heel of your other palm slowly along the forearm in the direction of your wrist. Use enough pressure to feel some heat, but not to give yourself a brush burn. Do the same thing across your open palm all the way down toward your fingertips, and again over the mound of your thumb, says Durkin. Repeat a few times, and switch hands.

Neck/ Shoulders
“Slouching forward over a computer can make shoulder and neck muscles tight,” says personal trainer and yoga instructor Mindy Caplan. Drop your shoulders so they’re not hunched up by your ears, and slowly tuck your chin to your chest to stretch your neck. Place two or three fingertips on the back of your neck where your neck and shoulders meet. Press firmly and hold, releasing when the muscle feels more relaxed. Roll your shoulder forward and back slowly. Repeat as needed.

Lower Back
Place a tennis ball on the floor and lie on it, or position it between your back and the wall. Move your body slowly up and down and side to side so that the ball massages any areas of muscle tightness (avoid your spine to prevent injury). Press hard enough to squish the ball a little but not so that you’re feeling pain. Just a few minutes of rolling is sufficient. “You don’t want to overdo it and aggravate already irritated tissues,” says Sanvito.

Thighs
Loosen up tight quads after sitting all day by rolling a tennis ball or foam roller (found at sporting goods stores for around $20) on top of your thighs. You also can use the palm of your hands to make small circles, working your way up the thigh from the knee. Or lean forward and run your elbow in a single stroke along the thigh from the knee toward the torso, says Durkin. Make several passes at slightly different angles along the thigh.

Calf/ Hamstrings
Ease calf tightness caused by activities such as wearing high heels or going on a long run by rolling a foam roller along the length of your calf muscles, suggests Caplan. The heels of your palms work well, too. Use both hands to knead along either side of lower leg in small circles, working your way up the calf; flex or point foot as you do it. Or drag the heels of your palms from the ankle toward knee along different sides of the calf.

Feet
After a day on your feet, sit down and roll a tennis ball or small rubber ball under the entire surface of the foot including the heel, arch and toes. Roll it back and forth using mild pressure, says Durkin. Or sit with one foot across your other knee. Grasp each toe, rotate a few times clockwise and counterclockwise. Bend each toe forward and back, then pull out gently on each toe. Use both hands to grasp firmly on either side of the foot and wiggle hands back and forth, jiggling your foot between them.

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