The Web has been a busy place the last several weeks as many of us have gone online for information about the bioterrorism threat. The Centers for Disease Control's site has strained to provide the latest details on anthrax; highly technical simulations of smallpox outbreaks and other 21st century bioterrorism agents have circulated; and dozens of Web sites selling the antibiotic Cipro, used to treat anthrax infection, have suddenly appeared. Well, it's time for a break, a reminder that the Internet can still be a soothing health resource, and fun too. To help soothe both body and soul, here are a few sites with information about a low-cost antidote to the current stresses: therapeutic self-massage.
IVillage points out that self-massage "increases blood flow and soothes muscles that have forgotten how to relax." So much for the science. The techniques themselves are familiar to anyone who has tried yoga: eye exercises, rolling your eyeballs in your head; finger and wrist stretches; and circular massages of the face and scalp. All are illustrated with videos, and there are brief articles on virtually every area of the body. Want to learn how to breathe "three-dimensionally?" To begin, the site instructs, "move your hips back in your chair, and reach under with your hands to pull the muscles and skin of your buttocks back." (again, this is self-massage; you should not ask for help). You then fill your lungs from front to back, from top to bottom and from left to right. And you thought you knew how to breathe.
Coolnurse is a site directed mainly at teens, but its self-massage page is a quick, enjoyable read for anyone intent on self-pampering and forgetting bioterrorism for a while. You'll find here instructions on how to knead and rub the whole body. For the legs: "Pummel the front and outside of your thighs with loosely clenched fists. This bouncy movement brings blood to the surface and relieves stiffness after sitting down for too long." The feet: "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 the ball of the foot." You will also learn, perhaps to your surprise, that "people carry a lot of tension around in their hands." Who knew? The hand massage is five steps, including: "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." Here also is a face massage with 14 steps, at the end of which "there is a wonderful light that seems to revitalize many people." And if you do all these massages at work, you could easily blow a whole afternoon getting relaxed.
This site offers straightforward--and occasionally amusing--techniques that include ear-pulling, gently touching the face and a detailed five-step primer on foot massage. (It's important to treat each toe individually, the site advises.) Best of all, according to holisticonline, there are a couple of "total-relaxation" acupressure points at the base of the skull on what's called the occipital ridge. Finding those spots is easy, the site says: "Put two tennis balls in a sock, and tie the end. Lie on your back on the floor, and place the sock behind the upper neck so that the two balls each touch the skull ridge that's right above the hollow spot. Stay like that for 20 minutes." If that doesn't banish thoughts of terrorism for at least a few minutes, then it may be time to pay for a full Swedish session.