If you’re feeling tight, sore or getting repeatedly injured, you can find relief outside of the doctor or physical therapists office with the proper pain relief tool kit. You may even prevent injuries that may be brewing below the surface but haven’t shown up yet.
Injuries can come from having muscular imbalances… like one side being stronger or more flexible than the other
It doesn’t matter if you’re an athlete pushing your limits or a desk jockey. Give it some time and a musculoskeletal injury will occur sooner or later. It can come from developing a faulty movement pattern when you walk, run, do housework or exercise, or just sit at your desk to work. If one part of your body is not performing optimally, it will cause another part of the body to compensate, and over time, this can cause a muscular imbalance.
Imbalances can come from overusing one side of the body more than the other, from poor posture or, from an accident or old injury. Eventually this can lead to injury because one area of the body will be getting stronger or tighter while another gets weaker. If you’re the proactive type, you may go to a Physical Therapist or Chiropractor to get balanced out when you feel something isn’t quite right. But too many of us let the little aches and pains fester until they get so bad we need to go to the doctor – we may even get so used to having them we forget they’re there. Aside from needing medical treatment eventually, there’s another down side to living with these buggersome, low-level aches and pains and that’s stress.
Subjecting our bodies to chronic stress can lead to a whole other host of icky issues like increased levels of cortisol (hello belly fat), increased risk factors for diseases, and generally just not being pleasant to be around.
Fix it at home
1. What is fascia?
Fascia a type of highly innervated connective tissue throughout your body (primarily made of collagen) that creates a three-dimensional matrix of structural support and is part of a body wide system that transmits tensional force.
2. Is myofascia different?
There are 3 types of fascia. Here we’re specifically talking about muscle fascia or, “myofascia,” meaning the fascia that permeates and surrounds the muscles, bones, nerves and blood vessels. Myofascia is directly related to movement because it transmits force throughout the body, allowing us to move in multiple directions.
3. What is SMR?
4. Trigger Points
When doing SMR, you may encounter specific “trigger points” which are tender spots in distinct, taut bands of hardened muscle and oh man, when you hit one, you know it! The general term is for pain from trigger points is referred to as Myofascial Pain Syndrome (MPS). Bringing this all full circle, trigger points can also cause muscle imbalances since they can affect our movement patterns when we’re trying to avoid pain. Like a domino effect, trigger points can refer pain to other areas, create adhesions (what we call “knots” in a muscle), limit our movements and increase risk of injury.
According to experts performing SMR regularly can:
- Help correct muscle imbalances
- Help Muscles Relax
- Improve range of motion in joints and optimize length-tension relationships
- Improve elasticity of muscles and reduce muscular hypertonicity (chronically contracted short, tight muscles)
- Improve neuromuscular efficiency for better movement
1. The Foam Roller.
Many varieties exist from super soft and gentle to meat grinders. I regularly use a bumpy roller, lovingly referred to as “the meat grinder” because the nubs or spikes, like on this one, feel like fingers digging into my muscles. If you like deep tissue massage, you’ll be in heaven. The Grid by Trigger Point is another popular roller. It has a three-dimensional surface which the company says “allows tissue to aerate while you roll, promoting the flow of blood and oxygen—the nutrients needed to repair muscles.” And of course there is the original, High Density Foam Roller.
2. Massage balls.
Massage balls come in different sizes, densities and materials for whatever ails you from soft and squishy to hard and spikey balls resembling a medieval weapon. You can use a pair of connected massage balls on either side of your vertebrae. Relax into them or roll up and down with the balls between the shoulder blades to release those nasty knots (known as adhesions which are usually a small section of muscle in spasm). Using one ball is great for getting into the hips (front, side and back). Tight hip flexors, butt muscles (particularly the piriformis just under the glutes, as well as the sides of the glutes) and the Tensor Fascia Latae (the side of the hip / upper outer thigh) are problem areas for most people who either sit for long periods of time without stretching or workout a lot. Basically, a lot of people!
3. Stick rollers and foot rollers.
Stick rollers like the TriggerPoint Grid STK or the Stick Rollers are great for areas you can reach yourself, like your thighs and calves. But if you have a partner or trainer, it’s a really convenient way for someone else to do myofascial release on you. With stick rollers, you don’t rely on the weight of your body to create the pressure on the muscle, rather, you can adjust the pressure with your hands. Foot rollers like the NANO are great for people with plantar fasciitis or neuromuscular foot pain and you can easily adjust the pressure with your foot. These are gentler than a ball because the surface area is more spread out. They can also be used on your calves or thighs depending on the width of the roller.
4. Mechanical or electrical massagers.
Aaaah….. for the truly lazy SMR’er. You can hit a few key areas by yourself like your legs, but you’ll need a friend to get your back. And believe me, it’s good to have a friend for this. While there are plenty of mechanical massage devices out there which can be purchased at various retail stores from Walgreen’s to Brookstone, the MyoBuddy and the Buff Enuff massagers take it to a whole new level. You know those motorized buffers they use on your car when it gets detailed? It’s a lot like that but this heats up and vibrates too! It’s like having a professional grade, deep tissue, warming and vibrational massage in the palm of your hand. It’s hard for me to even call it myofascial release because it isn’t painful whereas MR or SMR generally incorporates some amount of “good” pain. In my house, we refer to these as “buffers.”