Along with regular self massage you may want to try using various props to ease pain or as a preventative measure.
Here are a selection of props that can be used either by yourself or your massage therapist to help ease pain, relax the body or stimulate circulation. Have a guess at how you would use each of them!
These tools generally work in the same way that a massage therapist uses hands, forearms and elbows to manipulate the body.
Some, like the spiky balls (top middle) are pretty intense and others like the gua sha tools (the tools in the middle row) are used to gently sweep at the skin to move lymphatic fluid and encourage absorption of the oils.
You may be familiar with the foam roller. These have become more popular recently and are often seen in gyms and exercise classes. They have been billed as 'the poor man's massage therapist'. As a massage therapist I strongly object to this!
The foam roller, when used properly, can really help people. Athletes and those people who hit the gym 5 times a week may use these prior to a workout to aid their stretching and in these cases they can be really helpful tools. The rollers also have their place in aiding recovery after an injury. When used under the guidance of a physio they can be a fantastic tool.
However if you don't fall under these categories I would advise giving the foam roller a miss. For a start they are painful to use. They are meant to be painful - that's how you know they're working! It is even possible that using one when you're not sure what you're doing could cause some injury. If they appeal to you, then my advice would be to find a class that incorporates them and learn how to use them with an instructor.
An alternative to the foam roller is something like these cork balls. You could also use the more intense spiky plastic balls.
One of the benefits of these balls is that you can use them in very specific places to ease knotted muscles.
When you feel a tight spot on your body try laying on one of these bad boys. Once you get it in the right spot you won't need to do anything, gravity will do the work for you.
Get the ball on (or as close as possible) to the tight spot and rest on it for a short while. Start using it for 1 minute and work up to 5-10 minutes. It will probably feel painful at first but (as with the acupressure mat) your body eases into it and that tight spot in your body has no choice but to ease up.
These are some of my favourite props as they can be effectively used by most people and do a fairly good job at mimicking effective massage techniques.