Myofascial Self Treatment
Myofascial Self-Treatment, Part 1: Tools
Are you seeking to lead a pain-free lifestyle? Here, you’ll learn how to perform myofascial-release at home using the right tools.
Most people who come see me for treatment are looking for something more in terms of pain relief.
They’ve looked everywhere else… tried multiple types of therapy, chiropractic, acupuncture, physical therapy, etc. And still, they are in pain.
Quite often, I’m able to help them!
But receiving Myofascial treatments is only part of the solution.
The other part… is up to YOU.
There are many ways we can maintain our fascia at home, quickly and easily, empowering us to reduce our own pain, increase our mobility, and maintain a pain-free lifestyle.
“Doing your homework” is a very important element to your myofascial treatments and recovery and will keep you advancing and healing from session to session.
There are many effective ways to accomplish this.
In this blog series, I will introduce three main types of fascial self-treatment.
- The use of tools.
- The use of resistance (proprioceptive) stretching.
- The use of myofascial stretching.
There are many resources available to explore these subjects, and I will include links throughout this blog to help you explore these topics further.
I want you to be aware of what is readily and freely available to you and give you an idea of what you can accomplish if you take some time out of your day to make these activities part of your daily routine.
Today, I will be covering the topic of tools, and in a few weeks, I will continue this topic to address various types of Myofascial Stretching.
TOOLS TO SUPPORT MYOFASCIAL-RELEASE SELF-TREATMENT
1. Foam Rollers
This is the old standby, which can be found in any gym or physical therapy office. It’s generally overused and can cause harm when used on the IT band in an aggressive way.
Click here to learn what to do about IT Band pain and discomfort.
That being said, the foam roller can be quite effective for pain relief when used properly, utilizing sustained Myofascial pressure.
I have tried dozens of different foam rollers over the years, and the one that I keep returning to and that I encourage my clients to purchase is called the Rollga.
I like this roller because you can roll the spine without putting direct pressure on the vertebrae.
The curves of this roller help to “hook on” if using it to treat the rotator cuff or areas around the rib cage.
It is available in three basic densities.
The white is the softest and I recommend it’s for people that are in constant pain or tend to be very delicate as far as pressure.
On the other end of the spectrum, I recommend the black one only for those who are very muscular and require intense pressure.
The middle density is the most common, and the one I use most often. These are the colored rollers and they come in several different varieties.
Click here to purchase the basic roller and get tips directly from Rollga here.
If you need me to provide you with a direct link to the white or black roller, leave a comment below.
Ahh yes, the old tennis ball.
For ages, people have been using this for pain relief. But there are so many better tools on the market now, it’s probably best to save your tennis balls for tennis, or to play fetch with Fido.
I don’t like tennis balls for myofascial self-treatment because, first, it’s covered with felt. Felt is slippery! Therefore, it doesn’t have a good grip.
And for this reason, I far prefer rubber as an ideal material for a myofascial treatment tool. Secondly, tennis balls are hollow, and therefore don’t have much density.
There is a great selection of treatment balls on the market. Some of them are quite expensive, but I’m here to reassure you, you don’t need to spend a lot of money on these tools.
If you know what to look for effective treatment balls can be purchased very inexpensively and come in many different sizes and densities.
As a general rule, the smaller the ball, the more intense it is.
For gentler pressure, you can use a larger ball.
And of course, the harder the ball, the more intense the pressure it provides.
There are three balls that I have promoted throughout the years, and I make them available for purchase in my office. They are:
- A lacrosse ball
- A rubber baseball
- A 4-inch inflatable ball
I find these three balls, provided in a variety of textures and sizes, can facilitate just about any kind of pressure needed.
As you progress, you may want to explore other types of balls.
As I mentioned, there is no shortage of a variety of massage balls on the market. And they can be easily purchased on Amazon.
I know you’re thinking.
“What am I supposed to do with these balls? Just roll around on ‘em?”
I knew this was on your mind because 9 out of 10 people who come to my office ask the very same question.
So let me guide you through properly using a massage ball in myofascial self-treatment.
Lay on the floor & briefly roll around on the ball until you find a “spot”, a tender or painful place where pressure might benefit the facilitation of the tissue and nerves in that area.
(After I’ve worked on you, you’ll be very familiar with where some of the spots maybe!)
Once you find the spot… MELT INTO THE BALL.
That’s right, just take a deep breath, sink into it, and allow gravity to do its work. LET GO.
You don’t want the intensity to be through the roof; you want to feel it, but only to a tolerable degree.
And I’m not talking about “No pain, no gain.”
In fact, being aggressive with these tools can increase the pain.
You just want to calmly relax into it, take a deep breath, and melt.
If the intensity of the ball is too much, you won’t be able to relax into it.
This may be remedied by trying an “easier” ball or moving to a softer surface.
3. Other Tools
There are so many tools in the market nowadays, it’s overwhelming.
I have purchased and tried many of these tools over the years, and some of them are very valuable and effective.
But there is one tool that I love, and I’d like to share that with you now.
It’s called a THUMBBY. (Stupid name, phenomenal tool.)
It’s a little pricier than most treatment balls, but then again, it does things the other tools can’t do!
Worth every penny.
The Thumbby is a cone made of silicone. This provides a very nice surface and a gentle point for very specific pressure. In addition, the bottom of the cone is concave, helping it sticks to the wall. This can be extremely convenient if you’re trying to get to a particular spot in your shoulder, or on your hip flexors, glutes, etc.
It does many other tricks and can be used for multiple self-treatment applications.
There are too many questions to go into here but ask me how the THUMBBY can be used to treat your particular issue and I will oblige.
I occasionally keep them in stock in the office but click here to purchase online at your convenience.
For your convenience, use these additional Amazon links:
Myofascial Self-Treatment Part 2: Stretching
In addition to the use of tools for self-treatment, you must also incorporate unique and varied forms of stretching.
Most people have no idea about how to stretch and are still doing the same type of stretching they learned in middle school gym class.
Doing the hurdlers stretch and a couple of side bends as a warmup is fine – but it’s frightful to an aggressive, bouncy style stretch!
Trust me when I say this type of stretching doesn’t work, and it can cause you more damage than good.
There are far better ways to stretch!
Whether you are recovering from an injury, an athlete looking to improve your performance, or someone with chronic tight muscles from sitting at a desk or doing other repetitive motions, you must learn to stretch properly to establish a healthy practice of fascial maintenance.
If you are receiving myofascial relief treatments, incorporating the following techniques of stretching will further your muscular release, strengthen and rehabilitate the muscles that have been released, alleviate soreness, and speed up your healing process.
Today, I’m going to tell you about two amazing types of stretching.
If you take the time to learn and incorporate them into your daily routine, they will make a profound difference in the way you feel and the way you perform.
Countless books and videos have been published by people far more qualified than myself to teach you these techniques.
The amount of free resources is abundant, especially with the advent of YouTube.
I will provide links below for you to begin practicing these specialized types of stretching.
But first, let’s talk about them by category:
- Resistance stretching.
- Myofascial stretching.
This form of stretching has been around for many years but has been predominately practiced by the patients of physical therapists.
In other words, they have existed in the past as assistant stretches, but it is quite easy to attend this type of stretching on your own.
Also known as proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF), or Isometric stretching, this type of stretching brings a muscle or limb to its range of motion and then resists in the opposite direction.
This motion causes the muscle fibers to stretch internally and also strengthens at the same time.
This is an excellent way to rehabilitate a weak muscle, as it requires a very limited range of motion, and it is impossible to push the muscle past its ability.
Often, people go into the gym to rehabilitate their muscles with weights and push themselves past their current limitations, causing the injury or weak muscle to get even worse.
Resistance stretching eliminates this risk.
You will need a special resistance strap to do this type of stretching.
(I do NOT recommend trying these stretches with rehab bands. Resistance stretching does not use resistance bands.)
These specialized static straps are an excellent addition to your fascial tools arsenal.
They are made with multiple loops to provide many options for your hands to hold onto the strap.
Several are available in the market, but the “original” is called the “OPTP Stretch Strap”.
My preference, however, is the first version listed, which is made of nylon seatbelt material.
It’s virtually indestructible, comes in a variety of colors, and will last you forever!
I have sold both from my office and believe they are both excellent:
- SANKUU Yoga Strap, Multi-Loop Strap by Modern Cambrian
- The Original Stretch Out Strap with Exercise Book – Made in the USA by OPTP – Top Choice of Physical Therapists & Athletic Trainers by OPTP
For instruction, there are many qualified exercise professionals on YouTube that can teach you to do this type of stretching. Most are physical therapists or personal trainers.
Here is a couple to get you started:
- This guy has developed his system of PNF Stretching which he calls Dynamic Contraction Technique. His videos are quite good.
- A hamstring stretch.
- This is a good video, sort of a “crash course” on isometric stretching.
This is simply a term that I’ve chosen to use for sustained, passive stretching.
Whereas resistance stretching is an active stretch, myofascial stretching is the opposite, and the entire goal is to fully release and LET GO.
Without a doubt, the best and most accessible system to achieve this is Yin Yoga.
Unlike active forms of yoga-like Vinyasa, yin is very slow, meditative, and done from primarily a seated position.
This is an ideal form of yoga to unwind, fully relax, and begin to rehabilitate.
The teacher will often ask you to hold a stretch for four minutes or longer.
Sustained stretching is what identifies this type of stretch as myofascial stretching because as with myofascial release, sustained states of tension create a deep and profound change in the nervous system and allow the body to gently adapt itself to a positive change.
Also, sustained stretching of this nature will stretch the ligaments and joints, which is so very important to the rehabilitation of injured muscles.
Yin Yoga classes are abundant on YouTube.
The following link provides a list of some very excellent teachers on YouTube that offer free full classes of Yin Yoga. Click here to access.
For beginners, you want to pick a class that says beginners or “restorative.” Find a teacher that resonates with you, and then DO IT!
Also, you may want to read up on Yin Yoga or use books instead of videos.
(It helps to do both.)
Here are some excellent titles to begin with:
They Believe It, So They Say It....
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Frequently Asked Questions!
In the various forms of “traditional” massage, the goal is to relax the muscles and also detoxify the body, reducing stress, improving general health, and providing a temporary relief from pain. However, non of these forms of massage seeks to alter and change the structure of the connective tissue, AKA: Fascia. Massage does a wonderful job at relaxing the muscles, but until the underlying dysfunctional fascia is healed, the chronic problems quite often will return time and time again, even with constant massage. Myofascial-Release (MFR) is the solution.
Yes and No. Myofascial-Release is a very slow, deliberate technique. The therapist puts moderate pressure into the area of fascial restriction, then waits. Soon, the piezoelectric response kicks in, and the fascia begins to shift and release. When this happens, there are several sensations people can feel in the area, ranging from a “tingling” sensation to a fairly mild “burn”. Never will the clients feel shooting or excruciating pain. At anytime during the session you feel the therapists needs to lighten the pressure, you need only say “stop” and the therapist will stop immediately. You will never be asked to sustain more pressure than you are able.
The mechanics of myofascial-release will cause an inflammatory response in the system. This is not to be confused with other types of aggressive or deep massage, where the client leaves the session feeling like they “got hit by a truck”. The soreness from MFR is similar to the soreness you may have experienced after working out too hard. Soreness is the body’s response to change. Ironically – unlike other forms of deep massage, the cure for this soreness is to get more MFR! Subsequent sessions will break up remaining fascial restrictions, and the inflammation will quickly subside.