During the past week, my focus has been on decreasing tightness and soreness in my muscles by increasing my flexibility and the amount of time I spend on trigger point therapy and myofascial release. What is that, you ask? To put it plainly, myofascial release is the process of applying pressure and stretching soft tissue in order to release tension and swelling that can cause tightness and pain. Fascia is a densely woven soft tissue covering every muscle, bone, nerve, artery, vein and all of our internal organs. Through overuse, underuse, and trauma the fascia can become tight and inflamed, causing pain, tension, and decreased blood flow. (Wikipedia) Those knots you feel in your back, arms, neck, shoulders and legs, are also refered to as trigger points, and can be released through myofascial release therapy. Trigger points are tender spots in your muscle fibers that cause pain, not only in that spot, but they “trigger” the pain in other spots as well.
An illustration of various trigger points throughout the back, neck, shoulders, and hips. Now you can see why your back hurts, huh?
The pain caused by tight fascia and trigger points can be subtle or so intense that it decreases your range of motion and causes pain in multiple areas of the body. Fortunately, this pain can be treated and even prevented in a couple different ways. The easiest way is to get an appointment with a good massage therapist who specializes in myofacial release and trigger point therapy, go to him or her a few times and you’ll probably feel as good as new. The problem with this, however, is that unless you change your habits, these trigger points are bound to sneak back up. A more preventative measure lies in a couple simple tools that can be found at a sporting goods store!
1. A foam roller: By using your body weight as leverage and rolling over this innocent-looking roller, you can massage the lactic acid and tension out of your own muscles. It can be pretty painful, but it does WORLD of good. It is a great tool to use before and after a workout, or at any point in time to ease or prevent soreness. By rolling muscles over the roller until a tender spot is found, then applying pressure to the tender spot for 30-60 seconds, you can stretch the muscle and decrease tension. Click here to see a video on how to use the foam roller. In this video she does not tell you to find sore spots and apply pressure for 30-60 seconds, but this is a very important step in resolving trigger points.
This roller can be found at www.tptherapy.com –it is a little more firm than others and has a grid pattern that really grips the tripper points while rolling.
Other foam rollers like this one, can be found in sporting goods stores, as well as Wal-Mart and Target often times. Although they do not have the grip, they get the job done.
2. The almighty lacrosse ball- What may look like a simple little bouncing ball can be used as a great tool to ease trigger points. By laying on the ground and placing the ball to the left of the right of the spin between the shoulder blades and slowly moving around, allowing the ball to go looking for a sore spot, you can find trigger points throughout your back and use your body weight to apply pressure to the problem area. You can also use it on the shoulders, quads, feet, and calf muscles. This is very effective, but it can also be very painful, fortunately this pain for a short amount of time leads to a lot of comfort for a long amount of time. If you don’t think you’re ready for a lacrosse ball, try a tennis ball or a racquet ball first.
You can pick up a lacrosse ball at a sporting goods store for a dollar–the best investment I ever made.
Trigger Point Therapy also sells their own version of the ball that is a little softer and has tiny ridges to grip the muscles. They also have two smaller rollers; one for the quad and one for the foot, both good tools, but I have found that I do not use them as much as I do the larger roller.
3. This is not myofascial release therapy, but it will improve your flexibility and help you release lactic acid buildup in your muscles. Overall, incorporating yoga into my day makes it much more comfortable and enjoyable. Again, I suggest the A.M. Yoga for your Week by Rodney Yee, it’s quick, easy, and will be a great addition to your morning–or evening if you prefer!
Whether or not you are working out, you should be stretching out! Increasing your flexibility and mobility will also increase your strength and range of motion! Stretching isn’t just for cheerleaders anymore.
If you’re looking for a good Certified Massage Therapist in the Fredericksburg area, give Michael O’Brien a call at 540-850-6070 and visit www.barbiesmithmassage.com for a coupon!
Also, I will be posting the first workout of the “No BS Open” tomorrow, the first of a 6 week series of workouts. By completing the workout and sending your results to me at email@example.com, you can be in the running for the prize, which will be announced tomorrow! So far I only have TWO people who have committed to participating, TWO! That makes your chances of winning pretty great, you better join in. It’s only one workout a week–what do you have to lose? Also, check out the new format of the Weekly Meal Plan and Grocery list that is more comprehensive than ever!