Since many years, I always have a tennis ball with me. This is on my list of the five things that I always carry (the other four are my yoga mat, tiger balm, tea, and a book). I absolutely need it, no matter where or when… No, I am not a tennis player… Actually this tennis ball is a simple, cheap and portable tool for self-massage, and it really helps me releasing chronic muscles aches and to get rid of nasty trigger points, plus provides some wonderful results in myofascial release 🙂
What are Myofascial Trigger Points?
Myofascial trigger points are hyperirritable spots in the fascia surrounding skeletal muscle. They are associated with palpable nodules in tant bands of muscle fibers. In other words, these muscle knots or trigger point are small patches of super contracted muscle fibers (muscle cells) that cause pain and stiffness. They affect performance of the whole muscle, adjacent area and spread pain, and can even cause other trigger points. They are often a factor in common low back and neck pain. The good news is: most minor myofascial trigger points are self-treatable.
Having too many trigger points is known as Myofascial Pain Syndrome and being described as a focal hyper-irritability in a muscle that can strongly modulate central nervous system functions. Studies estimate that in 75-95 percent of cases , myofascial pain is a primary cause of regional pain. Myofascial pain is associated with muscle tenderness, a few millimeters in diameter, found at multiple sites in the muscle and the fascia of the muscle tissue.
What Exactly is Fascia?
Fascia is a thin, elastic type of connective tissue that wraps most structures within the human body, including muscle tissue. Fascia supports and protects these structures. Ostheopathic theory proposes that this soft tissue can become restricted due to psychogenic disease, overuse, trauma, infectious agent, or inactivity, often resulting in pain, muscle tension, and corresponding diminished blood flow. Although fascia and its corresponding muscle are the main targets of myofascial release, other tissue may be addressed as well, including other connective tissue.
Professional therapist massage is helpful but we can get some effective relief from simple self-massage and it is also extremely cost-effective to learn to save yourself some money. Most trigger points pain can be relieved with a simple self-massage with our thumbs or with some handy tool like a tennis ball. These muscle knots can be stubborn, but easy to find and get rid of with some rubbing.
Three Tricks for Myofascial Release
*Basic self-massage instructions
For an uncomplicated case, few moments of gentle rubbing can be enough. For more difficult cases, a couple of days of applying small, but frequent doses of rubbing will usually do the job. You can rub the trigger points with: fingertips, thumbs, fist, elbow and handy tools like a tennis ball, whatever fits for you.
Remember the following:
– simply press on the point directly and hold for a while (10 to 100 seconds)
– apply circular or back and forth strokes
– the intensity of pressure should be just right, reasonable (it should feel something like satisfying good pain)
Once you have adjusted yourself to achieve the right pressure, relax as much as possible and wait for the sensation to fade. This is the release, a change in the physiological state of the tissues, or the melting of the knots. It can take few seconds to several minutes. Don’t forget:
– never be brutal
– you need to be able to relax
– you can expect the tissue adapting to stronger pressure in the next few days of regular massage (if they don’t, either the problem is not trigger points, or they are more severe!)
– you can trust your instincts. Rub where it hurts. Explore for sensitive spots, but you can stay on a small area of muscle tissue around the epicenter of symptoms (as long as you don’t feel any negative reaction)
“Massage is a conversation with your nervous system. So you want it to have the right tone. Friendly and helpful. Not shouty and rude.”
*How to use the tennis ball
These are just examples, you can try what is the most efficient, comfortable for you.
I practice this self-massage on the floor or on my bed, and for some specific parts, I use the wall. The basic idea of tennis ball massage, is to apply pressure to the muscles:
– lie on the back. I start by placing the ball under the middle trapezius, the legs can be straight or bended. Take a full yogic breath and hold for 30 seconds to 2 minutes, then I exploreby moving slowly and gently. See how it feels. It is really up to you to put more pressure by pressing the floor with your feet or stay longer…
Then i take 1 to 3 other full breaths before shifting to another point:
– lower trapezius (=neck)
– rhomboid (&area) (=between the shoulder blades)
-erector spine (=along the spine)
– buttocks (gluteus medius & maximus)
– hips muscles
– and you can continue with muscles all along the legs if you need!
– strecht the muscles after the massage
For each point, it is important to breath deeply… as always ! 😉
*Try the following unusual spots too:
– sole of the feet, place the tennis ball under the arch of your foot and let your body weight sink in. Always take deep breaths. Slowly roll the foot from side to side, from heal to toes… Enjoy !
– thighs: You can place 2 or 3 balls under the outside of the thigh, while you are sitting on the floor and move from side to side, your outer quadriceps muscles will appreciate this a lot!
– chest: This will unglue the over-worked muscles, due to typing on computer, cooking, carrying kids… and will restore breathing, as well as relax your nervous system. Place the ball just below your collarbone, just feel the pressure of the ball against the wall. Breath. Shift from side to side…
– hands: This will relieve the extra tight flexor muscles of hands
The list can go on and go on. The possibilities are endless… Explore!
Why this Self-massage is efficient
A knot is a clenched patch of muscle tissues. The nerve that controls the muscle is firing too quickly and the tissue is full of waste molecules produced by the ‘revving’ tissue. Putting pressure on the ‘knot’ probably has two main therapeutic effects: it creates a small, local stretch that tends to inhibit the motor nerve or separate sarcomeres to the point of breaking the vicious cycle of spasm and it deforms the tissue and squeezes stagnant tissue fluids out the area.
I hope you could find some relief and that these informations can help you in your journey of the understanding of the body and his mysteries…
At last a poem I found. I hope it will inspire you:
‘I recognize you are the temple
In which my spirit
And creative energy dwell
I have created you from my need
To have my spirit manifest on earth
So that i may have this time to learn and grow
I offer you this massage
So that you may continue to sustain
My creative energy,my spirit,my soul
I offer this massage to you with love,
And a sincere desire for you to remain free
From disease and disharmony
I accept you as my own creation
I need you…..i love you……’