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Self-Care With Self-Massage


Massage therapy boasts innumerable benefits for optimal health. Massage has been associated with decreased pain, improved sleep, as a treatment for anxiety and depression, and as an overall comfort measure (for both the sick and the well.)

Nurses can benefit from massage as an intervention to improve body pain and soreness, manage stress and improve mood.

There’s just one problem with massage. The cost.

But a promising trend in alternative therapy research might be the answer: self-massage.

What the Literature Says

  • In this randomized, controlled trial, 40 participants with osteoarthritis of the knee were divided into a self-massage group and a control group. The self-massage group learned techniques to massage the quadriceps, while the control group. Significant improvements in pain, stiffness and functionality (including ability to go up and down stairs, putting on socks and light domestic duties) were noted.
  • Another randomized, controlled trial, this study looked at individuals suffering from hand pain. The intervention group learned hand massage techniques to practice at home (and received one hand massage per week) for four weeks. That group reported decreased level of pain and demonstrated improved grip strength. Anxiety and mood scores were also measured, with improvements noted in that regard for the intervention group, as well.
  • This study, published in the European Journal of Integrative Medicine, evaluated the use of aromatherapy self-massage techniques on nurses who experienced pain during menstruation. The participants were divided into three groups; an aromatherapy self-massage group, a placebo grou, and a control group. The massage group learned techniques for abdominal massage with the use of essential oils and reported a notable difference in pain and anxiety related to menstrual pain. (The essential oil used was not divulged in the study abstract.)

Self-massage is an inexpensive and noninvasive intervention that can be used as a helpful tool for nurses, who typically endure extensive physical and mental strain.

Interested in Self-Massage as a Self-Care Measure?

Asking a Massage Therapist

Splurge on a massage every now and then. When you do, ask the therapist to show you simple techniques that you can practice at home.

Checking Out Self-Massage Tutorials on YouTube

But do so with caution. It’s difficult to ascertain the expertise of the teacher and the validity of their techniques. So do some research before jumping in.

Purchasing A Guide

“Chi Self-Massage, The Taoist Way of Rejuvenation” by Mantak Chia

“Self-Massage for Athletes” by Rich Poley


Do you have any experience with massage or self-massage? Let us know if it’s helped you or someone you know with pain or stress (or both!)

9 Comments Post a comment
  1. The Health Benefits of Massage Therapy

    In an attempt to understand how and why massage therapy is as effective as it seems to be, scientists and medical researchers from around the world have been studying it for decades. Some characteristics of massage therapy have been conclusively resolved with apparent consensus among the learned scholars, while other characteristics remain as inexplicably mysterious as ever.

    For instance, they all agree that when a certain amount of pressure is applied to a soft tissue such as a muscle, some changes occur within the affected muscles. They also all tend to agree that massage therapy promotes relaxation and reduces the stress which often leads to deterioration or worsening of certain physiological conditions.

    Those characteristics of massage therapy which have not yet been explained by conventional science, gave rise to a number of theories and postulates. You will note that they are all prefaced with the word “might” to indicate uncertainty as they described possible health benefits of massage therapy:

    • Might provide stimulation that may help block pain signals transmitted to the brain and this is called the “gate control theory” of decreasing or alleviating pain.

    • Might promote better health by stimulating the lymphatic system to increase the flow of lymph, which is the secretion that carries disease fighting cells through the body.

    • Might re-route the client’s nervous system away from the sympathetic to the parasympathetic. In doing so, the fight-or-flight reaction of the sympathetic nervous system with its increased heart and breathing rates along with tightened muscles of distress are shunned in favor of the rest-and-digest reaction of the parasympathetic nervous system with its lowered heart rate, slowed breathing and relaxed muscles.

    The following are specific cases and their reported benefits whether they are understood or merely observed with bewilderment:

    • Students at a New Jersey Medical School who were given massage therapy before an exam displayed less anxiety, lower respiratory rates, a substantial increase in white blood cells and an enhanced immune system.

    • Cancer patients at the James Cancer Hospital and Research Institute in Columbus, Ohio experienced less pain and decreased anxiety after receiving massage therapies than those who did not get such treatments.

    • Studies at the University of South Carolina show that women who recently lost a child were less depressed after massage therapy.

    • The National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that massage therapy improved weight gain in infants who were premature or those who were exposed to HIV. They also determined that massage therapy expedites recovery in patients who had abdominal surgery.

    • Researchers at the University of the Miami School of Medicine’s Touch Research Institute discovered that massage therapy decreases high blood pressure, relieves migraine headaches, and generally increases alertness and performance in the workforce.

    So, is massage therapy beneficial? Yes! Massage therapy is beneficial on, oh, so many levels. The mechanics of the process may not be clear just yet, but the outcomes are undeniable by anyone’s standards.

    June 16, 2014
  2. I bought a golf ball muscle roller for a self massaging tool and it feels amazing! seriously check it out

    April 14, 2014
  3. Jennelyn Foronda #

    I finally found certified pure therapeutic grade essential oils I get online to manage and soothe my body aches and pains after my 12 hr shift. It does make my life easier and even safe for my baby too… what a life saver!

    February 20, 2014
  4. Kavana08 #

    Great tip…after a few 12 hour shifts I look forward to a massage of any of my extremities! It does make a difference…relieves so much stress

    February 17, 2014
  5. thank you very much… God bless you…. pain is everywhere after each shift… at times you forget about yourself notably when your focus are your client each shift… you tend to forget yourself & at times position yourself wrongly during care….

    February 16, 2014
    • Meaghan O'Keeffe, RN, BSN #

      Thank you, Noreen. I agree, it’s the little bits of self care that keep us going and help us take better care of ourselves, so we can take better care of our patients.

      February 19, 2014
  6. Love the sound of this. Can’t really justify going to a massage therapist every week, and my aching muscles could do with some attention daily. I’ll have to check out the youtube self-massage tutorials as suggested. Thanks for this tip! J x

    February 12, 2014
  7. I never thought of doing it myself. Excellent!

    February 10, 2014
    • Meaghan O'Keeffe, RN, BSN #

      I do hand massage in the evenings and I find it very relaxing and a great release of tension!

      February 11, 2014