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Massage Tools Buying Guide

BY: EDITORIAL TEAM | 7.29.2016 |


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Massage therapy can offer respite to achy bodies, but it's not always a practical choice considering the time and money it requires. Luckily, there are plenty of massage tools that you can use at home to help relieve muscle tension and pain on your own—no appointment necessary.

Where It Hurts: Back

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Areas to Target: The muscles running along each side of the spine are prone to pockets of tension, and massaging the trapeziuses—the muscles that run between your neck and shoulders—can relieve pain or burning in that area.

Massage Techniques: For back pain relief, therapists employ methods including muscle lifting, knuckling, and deep-tissue stimulation—a technique used in Swedish massages. Heat therapy is also common; hot-stone massages, for example, use water-heated stones to increase circulation and relax the back’s large muscles.

Tools That Can Get It Done:

  • Electric massage belts: These use vibration, heat therapy, or a combination of the two to simulate deep-tissue massage and soothe the lower back.
  • Seat cushions: Set on chairs or recliners, these cushions use internal rotating discs and knobs to knead the areas alongside the spine.
  • Massage balls: A massage ball can be a great tool for warming up or cooling down muscles before and after workouts. Some massage balls come studded with rounded spikes to help increase circulation and hasten muscle recovery.

Where It Hurts: Neck and Shoulders

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Areas to Target: The sides of the neck, spot beneath the back of the skull, and upper trapezius muscles are prone to tension caused by stress or overextension.

Massage Techniques: The neck is a common problem area for trigger points: tight knots of muscle fiber that can sometimes radiate pain across the body. Once found, these points can be relieved by a wide variety of methods, including circulation-stimulating acupressure, high-frequency pulses, or physical kneading and tapping.

Tools That Can Get It Done:

  • Massage wands: While they’re great for massaging other parts of the body, too, neck massage tools such as wands make it easy to treat hard-to-reach areas like the upper trapezius muscles.
  • Shoulder-draped massagers: Many of these products come with handles or clasps built into their tips, so you can tie or snap them together to keep your hands free while the massagers’ nodes go to work on your alleviating shoulder tension and knots in the sides of the neck.
  • Electrode pads: These adhesive pads are ideal for targeting localized pain and stiffness, sending high-frequency electronic pulses to loosen up troublesome knots.

Where It Hurts: Feet

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Areas to Target: The arch of the foot in general is a key area to target, but pressure points directly beneath the ball and the pad of the foot can be particularly soothing when stimulated.

Massage Techniques: Oils and footbaths can complement the kneading and strokes of a foot massage. Reflexology mats target precise pressure points on the foot in order to relieve tension in other parts of the body. Stroking or kneading the arch can also help alleviate pain in that immediate area.

Tools That Can Get It Done:

  • Platforms: Great for use while working at a table or watching TV from the couch, these electronic foot massagers use customized kneading and rolling on the arch.
  • Acupressure sandals: When you need to be on your feet, nodule-studded slippers and sandals provide reflexology-like relief and help boost circulation.
  • Massage balls: Rolling studded or smooth massage balls beneath the arch of the foot can help alleviate nagging pain caused by common overuse injuries, such as plantar fasciitis.

Where It Hurts: Forehead/Eyes/Face

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Areas to Target: Massaging the inside corners of the eyes, eyebrows, and temples can help stimulate circulation.

Massage Techniques: Simple self-massage using the index fingers and thumbs can help alleviate eye and forehead pain, and more advanced methods, including vibration, infrared heat, and air pressure, are also beneficial. Depending on the techniques used, massaging these areas can result in fewer forehead headaches, reduced puffiness, and less eye strain.

Tools That Can Get It Done:

  • Masks: From the simpler models that incorporate eyestrain-reducing vibration to more sophisticated devices that combine vibration, infrared heat, and skin-firming compression, masks can help rid eyes of dark circles and puffiness.
  • Handheld massagers: Handheld vibration massagers help to pinpoint pain centers, and they can be easily stashed in a purse or bag.
  • Massage wands: Using a model with interchangeable tips and applicators can provide gentle yet effective therapy to sensitive areas on the face, such as the temples, cheeks, and eye area.


Get Additional Benefits with Aromatherapy

While massage by itself is helpful in relieving muscular soreness and pain, improving flexibility, and promoting circulation, those benefits can be amplified by supplementing massage with aromatherapy. The most common tools used in aromatherapy are essential oils and diffusers, the latter of which help safely distribute the oils’ healing properties throughout rooms.

Essential Oils

While some can help treat physical ailments, essential oils used in aromatherapy can also go well beyond, working as antidepressants (chamomile), immunity-system strengtheners (lavender), and psychologically calming tonics (geranium). Essential oils can be used as massage oils, in baths for achy hands and feet, and even as steamed inhalants for sinus- and respiratory-healing.

Tips for Use:

  • Adding them to a footbath will increase muscle relaxation and circulation
  • Steaming essential oils such as peppermint and eucalyptus can help to clear the sinuses 

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Oil diffusers come in lots of shapes, sizes, and functions, but essentially, they all serve the same purpose: to distribute essential oils’ healing properties throughout a room. Some are simple: tissue paper that serves as a canvas for essential oils, while others, such as nebulizing diffusers, break down the oil’s molecules before spraying them into the air. You should choose a diffuser based on how you plan to use essential oils in your aromatherapy treatments.

Tips for Use:

  • If the air in your space is a little dry, try an ultrasonic diffuser; these can help humidify the air with a mist that combines water and essential oil
  • For a diffuser that’s as calming as it is stylish, try one that emits light; a soft, ambient glow can complement the soothing properties of the oil and make your bedroom look like a spa
  • If you plan on using a diffuser at bedtime, look for one with an auto-off feature


Goods and Shopping
BY: Editorial Team Goods and Shopping