Self-Massage Tips to Prevent Quarantine Injury

Through the COVID-19 crisis, so many of us have looked towards training to get us out of the house and to keep the anxiety at bay. However, the increased training volume comes at a price: tight muscles that make increasing a training load difficult!

I, for one, am missing getting to see my massage therapist, Kate Ripley of Boulder Bodyworks, to work out the kinks when my body starts to niggle. Although I am eager to take advantage of this uninterrupted training time, my aching body has resulted in lower mileage than I would have liked.

While Kate’s hands are tied as a massage therapist, she misses her clients and worries about their self-care habits while waiting out the stay-at-home orders. Here are Kate’s tips for self-massage at home to come out of COVID-19 without injury.

Keep it consistent.

“In my practice,” Kate says, “I see a lot of good intention, intelligent, active folks who swing from 30 to 60 minutes of self-care, stretching, rolling one day to not doing anything for weeks. Once I get them in the office, the sheepish, guilty face appears when I ask if they have been rolling or stretching. While they do get the occasional lengthy stretch-session in, their inconsistency inhibits the benefits they could be seeing from stretching and rolling. [An hour] here and there doesn’t do much good when it only happens once in a while.”

Instead, Kate recommends you take ten minutes after your run to work out the kinks and another 10 to 30 minutes before bed. It’s okay to flip on Netflix and get your roll on while watching TV, but don’t zone out and spend 15 minutes on one spot. Instead, be diligent over your entire body and address all the muscle groups. Kate stresses that a few minutes a day is better than once a week for half an hour.

Bullying an ache away won’t work.

A common mistake, according to Kate, is to over-massage an already inflamed area. Overdoing it on compromised soft tissue can lead to more inflammation and a longer recovery period. Again, focus on a specific spot for no more than 10 to 15 minutes, then move on. It helps to remember that the place that hurts is likely only a symptom of tightness up the chain. When you think of it like that, it is easier to be diligent about self-massaging the entire body rather than just a problem spot.

Harder is not better.

Our body’s muscles and connective tissues are complex and sensitive; they react to stimuli such as pressure, heat, and speed differently. With pressure, it’s a matter of easing into it and not going too hard. “It sounds counterintuitive,” says Kate, “but pressure does not equal depth.” Going too hard, too fast, causes the muscle to seize up when what you want it to do is release. Think of warming up into the massage, like you would a workout, and then avoid going too hard.

The hands know best.

Tools can’t sense your muscles relaxing; only your hands can. When using any implement to self-massage, Kate reminds us to stop occasionally to check in with your hands and feel how your muscles are reacting.

The Big Five.

While rolling the entire body is important, Kate knows that a head to toe roll sesh is time-consuming. If you are short on time, Kate says the glutes, hamstrings, quads, spinal column, and calves are the five crucial places to self-massage.

“Now, the foam roller is great at getting at the superficial tissues and helping the fascia to be more elastic. My absolute favorite massage toy these days is the Trigger Point MB5 ball. It is awesome at getting up into hamstrings and calves—two muscles that the foam roller is just okay at getting up into. I also use the MB5 ball in any area that you would normally use a lacrosse ball for. The larger surface area means that it doesn’t “poke” into the affected area as the lacrosse ball does—but it can still get at the knot or adhesion in the muscle and help relieve the tension.”