Self-Massage Doesn’t Feel As Good? (THIS Is Why!)

White woman doing arm self-massage with tropical greenery in the background.

Have you ever tried to give yourself a massage, and no matter how hard you try to focus and relax, it’s just as clear as day that self-massage doesn’t feel as good as someone else giving you a massage? Well, there’s nothing wrong with you. In fact, your body is working just as it should.

There are biological reasons why self-massage doesn’t feel as good as a massage given by someone else. Primarily, the part of the nervous system called somatosensory perception determines what and to which degree of touch your brain will process and send signals of feeling to the body.

Let’s get into the reasons why self-massage doesn’t feel the same as someone else massaging you and why you shouldn’t quit doing self-massage.

Why Self-Massage Doesn’t Feel Like a Professional Massage

It can be a bummer when you go to massage your neck, shoulders, back, or feet and realize that it feels more like work and less like pleasure. Remembering the blissed-out state you were in when you left the professional massage studio just a few weeks ago reminds you that massage does work, BUT something about doing it yourself just isn’t the same.

You may have concluded that you just don’t have the right training to make a massage feel good or that you just don’t know what you’re doing. While it may be true that you haven’t been professionally trained in massage therapy, that probably isn’t the reason why your self-massage sessions just don’t feel as good as when someone else gives you a massage.

The answer as to why your self-massages just don’t feel the same as a massage by someone else all boils down to the biology and physiology of your nervous system. In particular, this part of the nervous system is called somatosensory perception. This is your body’s ability to distinguish touch, temperature, body position, and pain.

Your sensory nervous system sends messages to the brain that determine a change in the environment, and your brain decides what to do with this information. Humans have significantly more sensory neurons in the hands than they do in the neck, back, or glutes. If you massage these areas with your own hands, your brain will have to prioritize the sensations coming from the hands versus your neck. With the hands containing more sensory neurons, they will win the priority sensation.

To illustrate: Way back when I was in Massage School, we had to perform an experiment with the sensory nervous system to really understand how this worked. We all had to partner up, we were given metal paper clips that we had to straighten out until it was just a thin line of metal. While our partner was standing and had their eyes closed, we touched their calf and the back of their hand with the two thin lines of metal. Our partner had to tell us where they felt the sensation of touch. Absolutely everyone in the class said they felt the metal on their hand ONLY and nowhere else. Our bodies prioritize the touch of the hand because the hand contains far more sensory neurons than the leg.

Does Self-Massage Work the Same as a Regular Massage?

The answer to the question as to whether self-massage works the same as a massage given by someone else is going to be subjective. Some may have the ability to give themselves what they feel is an amazing massage and some may feel like it just doesn’t work as well. If you can find a way to give yourself a massage without using your own muscles or hands to perform the job then yes self-massage can work the same as a regular massage!

The fact that the information coming from your hands, that is doing the work, is what can make a self-massage less effective or pleasurable than a massage given by someone else. Having multiple sensations being sent to the brain from different parts of the body means that your brain will have to prioritize which sensations will be given more attention, and usually your hands win. This also applies if you use a massage gun because of the fact that you are holding the massage gun and using your hand and arm muscles to apply pressure with the massage gun.

The brain prioritizes sensations

The fact that your brain prioritizes sensations doesn’t mean that it can’t or won’t feel the relaxing massage where you are applying it. It certainly does! It only means that most likely, the area being massaged will not get most of your brain’s attention. It’s kind of like having two kids; one is crying softly, but the other is screaming bloody murder. The kid screaming will probably be given more of your immediate attention, but you’re certainly aware and conscious of the kid’s soft crying.

THIS is Why You Should Perform Self-Massage

Regardless of how your brain works and how it prioritizes sensations, the fact remains the same: SELF-MASSAGE WORKS. Your brain still recognizes the sensations of massage and sends the correct signals for your muscles and soft tissues to relax.

It’s important that while performing self-massage you’re sitting or standing in a comfortable position and are as relaxed as can be so you can focus your attention on the area receiving the massage. You may find that you need to switch hands or adjust your body while giving yourself a massage. Do this as often as necessary.

Using massage tools (here’s my recommended list of tools) such as a massage gun with the ability to generate heat (I recommend this one from Walmart) can give you a more effective self-massage. The addition of the movement of the massage gun coupled with heat bombards the sensory neurons of the area being massaged, giving it a greater opportunity to get more of your brain’s attention.

There’s also your conscientiousness that you are doing something good for yourself that does a world of good for your sense of self-worth. Knowing that you are in need of loving care and providing that to yourself is sending signals to your brain that you are setting yourself as a priority at this moment in time. Self-massage would be worth it if it were just for that benefit alone.

I hope that I was able to successfully simplify the complex nature of the nervous system to help you understand why self-massage doesn’t feel the same as a massage given by someone else, but also why it’s still worth doing!

This article was written by and is the intellectual property of If this article appears anywhere else on the internet it was stolen from the copyright owner.


The content in this article is for informational, entertainment, and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of medical advice or treatment from a trained qualified physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Galeano Massage nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, or supplements or those diagnosed with a medical illness should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement, or lifestyle program.


I've been practicing Massage Therapy since 2014. I'm a health and wellness enthusiast. I'm always learning and experimenting with different techniques, recipes, and healing modalities. I believe that we need to approach health and wellness from a WHOLE-listic point of view and understand that it will constantly be changing and is never stagnant. We are all unique and what works for one person will not necessarily work for another person. As I grow, change, and experiment I will share what I have learned as it may help someone else in need.

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