How to Give a Leg Massage
By Lubna Sheikh on 2nd December 2019
Sometimes it is not possible to find the time or money to pay for a professional massage therapist. You may be in a relationship, and your partner has neither the dexterity nor compulsion to give a deep leg massage.
Apart from anything else, explaining to someone else how to perform the massage is often more painful than the ache itself. Self-massaging is a great piece of knowledge to gain, so here are some ideas on how you can give yourself an enjoyable leg massage.
Leg Stroke Massage
This is one of the simplest forms of massage. You can use the principle on any part of the leg, including the foot. The stroking pressure is up to you, and you can perform it sitting on a chair, pulling your leg to your chest. Or have your leg stretched out in-front while sitting on the floor.
- Place the palm of your hand, with fingers spread, over your ankle. Cup your ankle with your fingers and palm. It is a good idea to make sure your hands are warm before starting to make the muscles comfortable.
- Use your fingers to apply pressure and move them up the side of your leg. If it helps for balance, you can use both hands. The palms are great for adding more pressure.
- Move your fingers all the way up to your hip. You do not need to press hard, do whatever you are comfortable with.
- Repeat this process on the back of your leg. Start from the back of the ankle and move up to the buttock or as high as you can go.
- Move to the other leg. The feeling will have a better balance if you repeat the process 10 times on each leg, even if the other leg is fine.
This is a great leg massage for sore muscles and does not need a lot of pressure.
Kneading and Squeezing
This is like the stroking massage, except using your thumbs to add localized pressure. This is a more intense leg massage, both to perform and receive.
- Start at the ankle, using the thumb or thumbs to push against the sore areas.
- Move up the leg and repeat.
This is an excellent massage for the feet and toes.
This is a more difficult massage to perform on yourself, but it can be done.
- Make your hand into a slapping shape.
- With your little finger as the first point of contact, gently chop your way from the ankle up to the highest reachable place on your leg.
- Move around the leg and on to the other leg. And repeat up to 10 times.
Do not go mad with the chopping. You need to feel the pressure, but you do not want bruises.
Oils and Lotions Help to:
- stop friction burns.
- reduce the effort of moving the hand over the leg.
- help relax the muscles.
- produce a pleasant and relaxing smell.
- Try using your fist or elbow, to increase pressure in certain areas, while performing the massage.
- If the exercises hurt, it is better to leave it for a professional to look at the area.
How to Give a Massage
One of the ingredients of receiving a good massage is being immobile, with all the muscles relaxed. Communication is key before you start, get the person you will massage to point out the areas that they want you to focus on. Then try and do the massage without interruption Confirm on occasion if the massage needs adjusting.
- Have the person lay back, then pick up one of the feet. If possible, supporting the leg while doing so.
- Hold the sole of the foot in the palm of one hand and massage the sole of the foot with the thumb of the same hand.
- Move from the foot up to the calf then higher to the hip.
- As you move up, the leg-knots and tight-muscles will tense up being careful around these sensitive points. Especially where bones and joints are close to the surface of the skin.
- Use the finger and the palms of your hand to vary pressure and surface area, always pulling or pushing towards the heart.
- Move the massage around the leg for 5 minutes and then onto the other leg for the same time.
Check with the person receiving the massage:
- that the pressure is acceptable.
- the height the want you to go.
- any area they want to focus on.
- if they want you do repeat the process.
Improve Your Circulation with a Leg Massage
Healthy circulation in the body is paramount to the well-being of all muscles in the body and the mind. The better the circulation, the less work the heart must do to get blood around the body, and the fewer aches will take hold over joints.
- Be careful and do not press too hard.
- If you are unsure about massaging a specific area, leave it alone and work around it.
Poor posture and inactivity will strain blood vessels and veins below the level of the heart. A massage is great for reintroducing oxygenated blood to those areas and shifting fluid retention. You can also try some gentle stretching exercises before moving on to a full massage.
- In the same position as the foot bend.
- Move your hand up to the toe of the top foot, holding it between the thumb and the index finger.
- Bend the toe forwards, then back and hold the position for a half-minute.
This requires you to cross your legs if you cannot do this, cross one leg at a time.
- Sit upright and cross your legs so that you have one foot by your thigh and the other foot under your buttock.
- Hold the top foot with both hands, use one hand to cradle the foot, and place one hand on top.
- Relax the foot and use the hand to slowly rotate the foot in one direction 10 times and then in the other rotation for the same number of periods.
- Carefully bend the foot forward, then back and hold it there for a half-minute.
- Switch legs and go through the whole process up to 10 times each leg.
3. Hamstring Stretches
You need two chairs for this exercise.
- Set up two chairs, one to sit on and the other an ankles length away.
- Rest on foot on the floor, keeping the knee at right-angles. Place the other foot on the chair in front of you so that your leg is suspended.
- You must keep your back straight, but do not lean forward. The stretch will pull on your hamstring, and it is important not to put too much strain on this ligament.
- Hold for 30 seconds, and after this, relax your body for a further 30 seconds before stretching the other leg.
Try to stay still and keep the tension constant for the holding period.
4. Hip Bend
- Sit upright in a chair and bend one leg towards your chest and tuck your other foot under your posterior.
- Grab the ankle of the leg to help bring the foot in further and hold it for a half-minute.
- Release and relax for the same period before moving on to the other leg.
- When doing these exercises, it is better to alternate between legs and repeat the steps up to 10 times.
Optional Ways to Give Yourself a Massage
Flexibility is often an issue and a hurdle to performing a self-massage. If this is the case, then you can use some household items to help you perform the above massages.
1. Rolling Pins or Foam
There is no reason to go out and buy a whole pack of balls. Rather than using a tennis ball, a rolling pin or another cylinder of similar diameter will work. Whatever you use, it will need some form of grip on it. Plastic bottles, for example, will keep shooting out from under your feet.
Foam rollers are the best; they are cheap and easy to find. Foam is soft on the body, and a rolling pin may feel a little aggressive. Run the roller over the leg for 30 seconds at a time. You can also sit down and use your foot to do the rolling.
2. Tennis Balls
- Hamstring Massage (Point) – You can add extra pressure by placing a tennis ball between the buttock and the thigh. As you are stretching, try to move the ball about by shifting your weight.
- Hamstring Massage (Move) – Place the ball in the same position as above, but move hold the ball for half a minute. Then move it as far forward on the chair and hold again. Then move the ball back, and hold.
- Calf – Perform the same procedures of placing the ball under the thigh but this time while lying on the floor.
- Foot – place the ball under one foot while seated. Roll it around in the arch, under the heel, and under the toes.
You can buy semi-professional versions with a handle. This is a massage tool that is easy to find in shops or online. The rollerball massager is a little smaller than a grapefruit and a little harder. If you do not want to buy a tool, use a substitute, or find something similar around the home.
4. Roller Stick
In a similar method to the rolling pin, but instead using a wooden dowel to run over the leg and foot. This concentrates the pressure over what a rolling pin would give you. This may be a case for preference over what is more effective. You can find these in certain shops with handles to make the massage easier to perform.
Massage Machines – For the Legs and Feet
These are inexpensive to buy and make the massages easier to self-perform. As with all tools, you can get simple and thorough. There are two types of massage machines available:
1. Air Bag Massagers
These in a similar way to a blood pressure machine at a doctor’s office. An inflatable fabric is wrapped around the thigh, or calf, to be massaged. This fixed with Velcro and air is directed into the bags.
The machine creates air-pulses in the pads with the aim of increasing circulation. This process constricts and releases pressure in the leg; increasing and then decreasing pressure in the bags.
2. Shiatsu Roller and Kneading Massagers
These devices are common in massage chairs. It is possible to buy a single unit for a single calf. The unit has airbags that inflate and deflate either side of the calf, performing a compression massage. Some units also have multiple settings for rolling and squeezing the leg muscle with motor-driven balls.
People Not to Massage
Some people do not like the feeling of a massage, and others should avoid giving them. There are also people with certain medical conditions that should not receive massages:
- People suffering from or with suspicions that they have deep vein thrombosis should not have a massage. Massaging someone with a blood clot is dangerous and potentially deadly.
- Pregnant women often run the risk of thrombosis in their legs and should avoid massages.
- Legs with water retention. A person should seek medical treatment before any massaging is performed.
- Open wounds run the risk of getting infected, or a massage shifting an infection around.
- Sensitive skin tends to not work well with massage oil. If you have any irritation, wait until it is gone before massaging anywhere on the skin.
- Diabetics and those with high blood pressure must exercise caution. Veins and arteries are under enough pressure.
- Osteoporosis sufferers with delicate bones. Most people will survive a gentle massage, be careful.
The Last Leg
A simple leg massage is a fantastic way to improve circulation and relieve stress. The ability to perform a massage on yourself is a great gift to have. Self-massages reach the areas that you know need the work, and they are free.
A self-massage is something that you can do at any time and anywhere, even in an office. Sore muscles are no joke, so it is worth spending a little time on your self-massaging techniques.
About the author of this article
My name is Lubna and I am a Holistic Food Coach, Natural Chef, Massage Specialist & Yoga teacher. I am passionate about your health and well-being. Now, health and well-being is my life! I practice yoga every morning. I attend and support my community fitness centre and I have recently learned how to swim.