Who couldn’t use a little stress relief now and then? Some believe stress is a major contributor to 80% of all illness. Massage has always been a good way to relieve stress but here are the top five parts of your body that will guarantee to take you to the ultimate state of relaxation and stress relief.
1. Your feet. Massage on the feet can be the ultra-relaxation zone for many people. There are hundreds of nerve endings on the feet and an entire massage modality was made just for feet. Reflexology is based on the theory that the body has 10 zones, ending on the bottom of the feet and hands. These zones correspond to different parts and organs in the body. By pressing and massaging these zones on the feet in a particular order, they affect other parts of the body within that zone.
2. Your hands. These two appendages are the hardest working area of our body. Everything in our world requires busy hands. During your next massage ask for the palms of your hands to be opened and stretched. This will be extra tight for those people who work with their hands a lot and are contracted into finger flexion. Over time the muscles that run through the palms of your hands can become shortened from repetitive overuse. It’s always beneficial to stretch these hypertonic muscles. Plus, receiving massage on the palms of the hands is surprisingly relaxing.
3. Your neck. Lots of muscle tissue covers the anterior, lateral, and posterior neck. This area holds tension and stress maybe more than you realize. The lateral or side of the neck is as commonly massaged as the posterior or back of the neck. The area that gets left out, due mostly to uneducated fingers is the anterior or front of the neck. Many massage therapists are taught to stay away from the front of the neck because of the arteries and nerves that run through the area. Find a therapist with an educated touch because the scalenes and sternocleidomastoid are anterior neck muscles that when released can cure headaches, thoracic outlet syndrome, and numbness down the arms or in the fingers. The back and sides of the neck have equally important muscles that shouldn’t be left out. On the posterior neck lie the suboccipital muscles which are the primary trouble makers for tension headaches.
4. Your scalp. The scalp may be the single most overlooked holding area of stress. The three main muscles that cover the scalp are temporalis, frontalis, and occipitalis. Massaging the temporalis and occipitalis can help headaches. The frontalis is the busy muscle of your forehead that when massaged is very sedating to the nervous system. Try massaging your own scalp next time you need a pick-me-up in the middle of your day. Hook your fingertips in with enough pressure to move the skin over the underlying bone.
5. Your face. Did you know there are over 30 pairs of muscles in the face alone? Muscles that make us smile, frown, move our eyebrows, squint our eyes, purse our lips, the list goes on and on. Also on the face are some sinus pressure points and the ever overworked muscle of the jaw, the masseter. This muscle is the strongest muscle of our body relative to its size. The masseter is contracted when people grind their teeth during times of stress. Notice next time you’re late and sitting in traffic if you are clenching your jaw. This masseter muscle is surprisingly tender on many people during a massage. It lies over the hinge of the jaw where we open and close our mouth. TMJ syndrome is commonly treated by massaging this muscle and others. Two sinus pressure points are at the bridge of the nose and just below the midpoint of the cheekbones. Try a press, hold and release combination 10 times next time your sinuses are bothering you. You can also try rhythmic circles at the temples next headache you have.
We all have some degree of stress in our life. This is normal; it’s how you deal with the stress that shows how conscious you are of your bodies’ needs. A professional massage is an ideal way to relieve stress and tension. Plus, now your own hands can massage these 5 areas in between your professional sessions. Happy relaxation!