Tools for self-massage

Your own hands are your greatest assets, but you can add a few simple, affordable tools to your self-massage kit.

Tennis balls: At about a dollar a pop, tennis balls are the go-to tool for many thrifty self-massagers. Roll a ball beneath your foot while you work. Place it behind your back on your chair and gently roll the ball across the muscles of your middle and lower back, between tense shoulders. Tuck it low on the side of your back for a gentle but energizing kidney massage. Stash a tennis ball beneath your thigh and rub around into a sore hamstring. Or slide it up under your bum for a discreet gluteus rub. You can even use it to strengthen your greatest self-massage tool – your hands – by squeezing and releasing your grip around the ball.

Baoding balls: These palm-sized spheres originated in China as a tool for exercising the hands and improving dexterity. Usually constructed of iron, these balls are meant to be rotated, two at a time, in the palm of the hand. Consider using Baoding balls to strengthen your hands and grip for more effective massage.

Foam rollers: Use these pliable foam tubes to roll across tight, sore muscles. Rollers help you use your own body weight to massage hard-to-reach spots, like in the middle of your back, along the sides of your thighs, or along your glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, and calves.

Massage oils: Nothing fancy necessary here. All you really need is something to smooth the way as your hands move across your skin. Popular and affordable choices include avocado oil, sweet almond oil, olive oil, and shea butter. Regular, low-cost body lotion will do the trick, too.

DIY heating pad: After you've finished your self-massage, it might feel good to apply a little pressure or heat to your muscles. You can make your own compress with only an old (but clean) sock and some uncooked rice. Fill the sock with the rice, but don't pack it in too tightly. You want there to be some give to the filling so it can conform to the contours of your body. Flaxseed could be substituted for rice for a softer feel.

If you don't mind spending a little money, you can explore the wide array of massage tools available for purchase in specialty stores and online. More costly wooden rollers can be more durable than foam, and s-shaped massage canes help to reach the unreachable spots. Knobby pressure tools come in all shapes and sizes, including dolphin-shaped!

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