Chances are, you don’t think too much about your muscles until they are tired or causing pain. Sore muscles can have an obvious cause—a heavy workout or a long run—or they can sneak up on you after day-to-day activities. Perhaps you’ve experienced sore muscles after a day of yard work, cleaning your house or even walking further than you normally would.
Massage therapy can release the tension in your body and also helps to speed up muscle repair. If you’ve been wondering how to massage sore muscles, either to perform on yourself or someone else, we hope these basic principles have been helpful—warm the muscles up, move them gently and massage without pain.
If your muscles are aching for one reason or another, you’ll want to find quick relief and learn how to massage sore muscles without causing more pain. Here are the nine best ways on how to massage sore muscles anywhere in your body:
1. Warm up before the massage
Before applying pressure to your muscles, you first need to warm them up. Treating, stretching or attempting to manipulate cold muscles is a recipe for causing harm. To get started, warm your sore muscles in a bath or with a heating device— either a hot water bottle or a heating pad. Within minutes, your muscles will relax enough for treatment.
2. Use oil or lotion
A good way to massage sore muscles is by using oil or lotion. Next, check your cabinets for body oil or lotion. Just as a massage therapist uses oil to reduce friction when you receive a body massage, it will be easier for you to treat your own muscles if you use baby oil, coconut oil or even your favourite moisturizer or lotion.
3. Create movement in the massage
Once muscles have been warmed, start to move them gently. If your legs are sore, for example, sit with them in a relaxed position and shake them gently, side-to-side, moving your hands up and down the muscles. Then, use light but vigorous strokes to warm the muscles further and help increase blood circulation.
4. Tap out the sore muscles
Another technique for increasing blood supply to sore muscles is to tap or beat them with your hands held perpendicular, so your pinkie finger lands first. Rapid muscle tapping brings more blood to the muscles, warming them up further, but also helping to relieve tension and release toxins.
5. Begin with shallow movements
While it may be tempting to work your way deep into muscles in order to relieve pain, this can actually make things worse. Start by warming up the top layers of muscle tissue, as described above, before adding more pressure or digging deeper into muscle layers. Use pain as your guide; massage may be uncomfortable at first for sore muscles, but it shouldn’t be painful.
6. Hold a pressure point
If, as you’re massaging your muscles, you find something that feels like a knot or tight spot, hit pause. These tension points can feel irritated if you rub over them repeatedly. Instead, try holding static pressure on the spot for at least 30 seconds. Sometimes these knots, or trigger points, will release and soften with direct, steady pressure.
7. Hit a yoga class
While yoga is not a substitute for massage, it often provides gentle muscle stimulation and release, in addition to peripheral massage. Of course, not every yoga class is created equal. If your muscles are sore, the last thing you want to do is over-work them in an intense class. Look for a class that offers stretch and unwind techniques. Usually, these classes will start with a muscle warm-up, a gentle stretch followed by deeper-stretch exercises.
8. Get rolling
For muscles you are unable to effectively reach yourself, try the use of a foam roller. A roller is a dense, foam-based tool, often found where you buy sporting goods. Rolling muscles gently over a foam roller helps to release tension. Be sure to avoid rolling directly onto joints or bones; use pain as your guide. A productive rolling session will likely feel uncomfortable at first, but will ultimately give you relief. Never push yourself to the point of pain.
9. Go for professional massage therapy
Let’s face it, some things are best left to the professionals. Even if regular massage sessions are out of your budget, it will almost certainly help to treat your sore muscles to the occasional appointment with a Registered Massage Therapist (RMT). Trained to understand your overall wellbeing, RMTs are specialists in releasing tension and improving overall blood flow.
As we use—and potentially over-use—our muscles, our bodies create by-products that can accumulate over time and cause muscle soreness or stiffness. Massage is widely known to help relieve this tension and remove toxins from our muscle tissues. Whether you are able to use the help of a professional RMT or plan to do a bit of massage on your own, your muscles will benefit from the attention.