Muscles ache for all sorts of reasons. Tension or bad posture can make them ache, running a race or carrying a heavy load can make them sore and a sprain or sudden jerk can cause agony. However, once again, massage works miracles with any kind of sore muscles, as it not only soothes them but, in most cases, it also manages to heal them. The most frequent muscular aches are usually caused by a build up of lactic acid, which occurs when muscles are exercised so vigorously that body wastes are trapped within them. This happens to athletes all the time. Research into sports medicine has proved that muscles recover five times faster if they are rubbed rather than rested in between bouts of energetic exercise. This is the reason why you see athletes being massaged, from Olympic level down to the local team.
To get the same benefits at home, you must massage sore muscles with firm or fast rhythmic strokes, to warm and relax them, then do some stretches to keep them loose. This massage concentrates on the largest muscle groups – calves, thighs, buttocks, biceps, shoulders and back. So do as many repeats as possible of strokes that go over areas of soreness, and fewer or none of the others. However, never take any of the stretches farther than is comfortable and keep friction rubs or kneading strokes light over any areas that are very sore. If the aching has not gone from muscles after two days, seek medical advice as they may be injured rather than just over-exerted.
How To Massage Sore Muscles
Try to make all strokes rhythmic and repetitive so that they are as warming as possible. It helps if you rub in some liniment or eucalyptus essential oil, as well as your massage oil; the menthol heat skin and soothes muscles even more. If you have a warm bath beforehand, the sore muscles will respond better to the massage and hurt less. If muscles are stiff as well as sore, it is more comfortable to have a pillow under the knees (to relax leg and back muscles) for the first half of the massage.
- Place your hands, palms down, across the left leg, with fingers pointing in opposite directions. Then gently push down and slide your hands up from the ankle to knee. Move your hands over the knee lightly, and then continue the stroke with downward pressure up to the thigh. Slide your hands back down along the sides of the leg and repeat for several minutes. Then do fast, firm frictions rub, with palms flat, from feet up to the thighs.
- Bend the left leg up at the knee and prop the foot against your thigh for support. Place your hands, palms up, around the back of the calf muscle above the ankle. Wring the leg by sliding your hands backwards and forwards in opposite directions to twist the flesh. Keep the motion going and gradually work up the back of the leg from ankle to knee. Repeat two or three times.
- In the same position, knead and stroke the back of the thigh. Place your right hand, palm up, behind the knee, with your thumb on the outer thigh and your fingers to the inner side so that your hand makes a V shape. Press and pinch in as you push the hand up the leg to the top of the thigh, to give a deep, kneading stroke. Bring the fingers together, slide round to the front of the thigh and back down to the knee. Then repeat for several minutes.
- With the left leg straight again, start a criss-cross stroke from the ankle to thigh. Place your hands, palms down, across the leg with your fingers pointing to the inner ankle. Then do a firm stroke from one side of the leg to the other, so that your hands criss-cross and one pushes forward as the other pulls backwards. Make sure your fingers curve under the leg on the downward inner stroke and that the heels of your hands push into the outer leg on the upward stroke.
- Now the person being massaged should bend the left leg and keep the other straight while you stand at his feet. Bend forward from the waist and pick up the bent leg, placing the heel on your shoulder. Keep your own legs apart with your knees slightly bent to avoid straining your back, then gently place one hand behind the knee and one behind the ankle for support, and straighten the leg as you push up slightly with your shoulder. Hold this stretch for a count of 15, then release your hands so the knee relaxes. Now do steps one to five on the other leg.
- Place your hands palm down over the upper arm and biceps. Do a fast, firm friction rub so that your hands make a sawing motion. Place your palms down around the wrist, with fingers pointing in opposite directions. Slide your hands up the arm, moving together in a slow, firm stroke from wrist to shoulder, but being gentle over the elbow joint. From the shoulder, slowly pull your hands down the sides of the arm. Repeat for several minutes.
- The person being massaged should turn over to lie face down. Knead the muscles, pinching the flesh between your thumbs and fingers, right across the shoulders, upper arms and middle of the back. Then do a firm, flat-handed stroke from below the shoulder blade diagonally up to the opposite shoulder, repeating several times on both sides. Finish with a firm, fast friction rub from the middle of the back up and over the
- Make your hands into loose fists and pummel all over the upper back, using the base of the fist in an up-and-down hammer movement, one hand after the other. Keep your fists relaxed so that your hands bounce off the body and avoid the spine and bony shoulder blades. Then pummel the buttock muscles between hips and thighs, using the same fist movement. Finish by doing firm palm strokes in circles over the buttocks and the top of the back.
- With your hands, palms down, between the shoulder blades, press down and slide your hands diagonally out to the tops of the arms, then pull them in across the shoulder tops and up the sides of the neck, before sliding them lightly back down either side of the spine to the start position. Next, with palms down below one shoulder blade, glide them upward in a diagonal direction to the top of the arm, fan them out in a circle and draw them together at the start. Repeat as a smooth, flowing stroke.
- Please take special note of lifting instructions for this massage. To stretch and release tension in the lower back and shoulder muscles, do a half-body lift. Stand astride the hips of the person being massaged and slide your hands under his arms to the front of his chest. Gently and slowly pull the torso upwards, bending your knees to take the strain off your back, and stretch him up as far as is comfortable. Hold for a count of 15, then relax back down. Repeat twice more.