Be Your Own Masseuse: Self Massage to Relieve Caregiver Stress

June 1, 2012
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Older Man Relaxing Being a caregiver to an aging parent isn’t for the faint of heart.

Older Man Relaxing Being a caregiver to an aging parent isn’t for the faint of heart.

The daily task of an elder caregiver involves everything from dressing the person, helping him or her with bathing, turning the person in bed, housecleaning, lifting and much more. With this level of physical exertion, tension headaches, sinus pressure, and sore muscles are a common occurrence.

Research shows female caregivers are often responsible for the bulk this “heavy lifting”. While men share more caregiving responsibilities than in the past, women shoulder the majority of the burden: An estimated 75% of elder caregivers are women.

Studies have shown that not only do women assume the most arduous caregiving tasks including bathing, toileting, and dressing they are also more likely to suffer anxiety and depression.

The wear and tear daily caregiving to your aging parents can translate into nagging body aches and pains. But before you reach for a bottle of pills, some quick fixes lie at your fingertips.

Anyone who has had the pleasure of a professional rub down knows the rush relief that comes with a massage. But what we perceive as feeling good, actually does our bodies good, too.

Click the image for more caregiver inspiration.

Touch is one of the body’s most powerful—and underutilized– senses. Massage offers a host of health benefits including improved range of motion and joint flexibility. These relaxation techniques increase blood flow and washing toxins away from cells so that nutrients can travel in. By reducing levels of cortisol, bodywork banishes stress and helps guard against colds and other illnesses.

In fact, massage has even been shown to reduce cravings in smoking addiction and release the body’s natural painkillers—endorphins. Just like breathing exercises, self-massage helps regulate and re-calibrate the body so that you can reach a state of calm and balance.

However, as the American Massage Therapy Association reports, the average price of a massage is $63 an hour – a high price to pay for already cash-strapped caregivers to shell out. So why not tap into the powerful sense of touch at home, on your own schedule, for free?

After a long day of caregiving, practice these simple, self massage techniques to relieve caregiver stress recommended by the health-minded folks at LiveStrong:

Shoulders

1. Stroke your right shoulder with your left hand. Starting at the base of your skull, stroke down the side of your neck, over your shoulder and down your arm to the elbow. Glide back to your neck and repeat at least three times. Then do the other side.

2. Make circular pressures with your fingertips on either side of the spine. Work up the neck and around the base of the skull. Then squeeze and release the flesh on each shoulder and at the top of your arms.

3. Loosely clench your left hand into a fist and gently pound your right shoulder. Keep your wrist flexible. This can be very invigorating if you are tired. Repeat on the other side.

4. Finish by stroking smoothly with both hands. Start with your hands on the side of your face and glide them gently down under your chin. Slide your hands past each other at the front of the neck, so that each hand is on the opposite shoulder. Stroke gently over your shoulders, down your arms and off at the fingertips. Repeat as often as you like. This hypnotic stroke can relieve headaches and tension.

foot massageFeet

1. Put one hand on the top of your foot and the other under the sole. Stroke smoothly from your toes to your ankles. Glide your hands back to your toes and repeat.

2. Support your foot with one hand and work on each toe individually. Squeeze each toe firmly, and gently stretch with a gentle pull.

3. With one thumb on top of the other, do a line of firm pressures down the center of the sole and lines on either side. Then, with one thumb, do circular pressures on the arch and ball.

4. Support your foot with one hand and make the other into a loose fist. Do knuckling movements all over the sole by rippling your fingers around in small circular movements.

5. Still holding your foot with one hand, hack the sole with your other hand. Flick your hand away the moment you touch the foot, so that the effect is light and springy.

6. Stroke around the ankle with your fingertips, as you stroke up toward the leg and gently as you glide back. Finish by stroking the foot as you did at the beginning.

hand massageHands

1. Stroke the back of your hand, pushing firmly up toward the wrist and gliding back gently. Then squeeze the hand all over, pressing it between your palm and your fingers.

2. Squeeze each finger and make circular pressures over the joints with your thumb. Then hold the finger at its base and pull it gently to stretch it, sliding your grip up the finger and off the tip.

3. Stroke between the tendons on the back of the hand with your thumb. Stroke in the furrow to the wrists, doing four strokes in each furrow.

4. Turn your hand over and support the back with your fingers. Do firm circular and static pressures with your thumb, working all over the palm and around the wrist.

5. Finish the massage by stroking the palm of your hand from the fingers to the wrist. Push into it with the heel of your other hand, then glide gently back and repeat.

Want more great self massage techniques, visit Livestrong.

Now, you’re well on your way to becoming your own personal masseuse. Not only are you reaping the benefits of a re-energized body, but you’ll ready to faces the challenges of caregiving with strength and elevated confidence.

Share these techniques with other caregivers you know! Making other people feel good AND giving them a skill to walk away with is an excellent way to support others.

 

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