Ever have a tight neck after a stressful day with no one to rub it for you? Good news! You can release those tense tissues on your own — not quite as relaxing — but it will make you feel better.
Soft Tissue Release is a form of massage that involves finding pressure points in a certain muscle and then taking that muscle through its range of motion (or stretching it) while maintaining pressure to “release” the tissue. Here are some techniques to try.
First — the neck. This is a common tight spot, and with it can come headaches and migraines (see a professional if pain lasts longer than a few days). Start by placing your finger with moderate to strong pressure where your trapezius muscles lifts off the shoulder (the triangle-looking muscles at the side of the neck). Then, move your head to the opposite side. Continue these movements, moving the fingers up and down the muscle, and moving your head to the side and forward. You should feel a mix of a stretch, and pressure on the muscle. Continue this for 10 to 15 reps up and down the muscle, on both sides. You should progressively find that you’re getting more range of motion with each movement.
Next — the chest muscles, specifically the pectoralis group. Place your thumb in the front of your shoulder. You’ll know you’ve found the spot as most people are very tight here. Feeling for that band of muscle, bring your arm to 90 degrees and stretch it backwards. You can use a doorframe or wall to aid in this if you’d like more intense stretch. Move in and out, and up the muscle to different points for 10 to 15 passes, aiming for more range of motion each time.
Last — the forearms. Start with your fingers applying strong pressure anywhere along the muscles running from the elbow to the wrist. Move your wrist (of the arm you’re putting pressure on) into flexion and extension (bend it and extend it). Keeping the elbow straight, you’ll get some stretch and the feeling of a massage into the length of the muscles on either side of the forearm. An awesome break for these muscles that are the common culprits behind carpal tunnel, tennis, and golfer’s elbow.
These techniques are designed to relieve tight muscles, but are not meant to replace appropriate treatment or assessment by your doctor or other health-care professional. Be sure to check in with your athletic therapist, physiotherapist, MD, RMT, or other movement professional if tightness or pain persists.
Be sure to also be hydrating appropriately, as tight muscles are often also a sign of poor hydration habits!