It seems inevitable that as we age, we’re going to feel sore, develop aches, tight backs, and sore joints. Some people get a massage once in a blue moon, but then a few days later it’s back.
Maybe you’ve heard about foam rolling, seen the foam cylinders people use on their calves and backs.
I’m going to tell you about something much better.
The concept is called myofascil release. Fascia is like a sheath that wraps around your muscle fibers. That’s where knots form. You can apply pressure to these knots, or trigger points, which stimulates the golgi tendon organs (the things that attach muscles to bone) and tells the muscle to relax, getting rid of the knots.
Knots form for a variety of reasons. Typically a muscle will lock up to prevent an injury. Your body is preventing you from moving in a way that’s going to cause damage. Other sources can be stress, crappy posture, overuse, or too much sitting or rest (ever cramp up when you’re laying down in bed?)
You can get a massage, but those can get expensive. I learned from someone that attended massage school that they teach you not to massage yourself. I’m not sure about their justification, but I’ll give you my guess.
When you push on your own sore spots, you can subconsciously inhibit how much pressure you apply. So maybe they think it’s not as effective? If you use external instruments instead of your hands, I believe the inhibition problem is eliminated.
So what the hell am I talking about? This is how to massage yourself.
This isn’t a “light some candles and grab some oil” massage. This is going to hurt like hell, but you’re going to feel unbelievably better. (my girlfriend gets mad at me when I do this stuff to help her instead of just rubbing my hands along her back. )
The best tool is a lacrosse ball. A tennis ball may be a good beginner step, depending on your pain tolerance. After a while, a tennis ball loses effectiveness and you’ll need something harder. Now there are also “massage balls” that are fairly firm, but a bit softer than a lacrosse ball.
A lacrosse ball kicks foam roller’s ass. Foam rollers are usually very soft. At gyms they are usually very worn out. They are useful for large muscle groups only. A lacrosse ball can get a lot deeper and more targeted. Think about a shovel versus a drill for making a hole. (oil driller, not just electric)
You can use the ball on pretty much any part of your body. I recommend buying at least 3. One thing I learned is to tape two balls together, try it on your thoracic spine (upper back) and calves. Having 3 means you don’t need to deal with taping and untaping them. I like to keep one in my bedroom, living room, office, backpack, and car.
So you got balls, now what do you do with them? Here are some of my favorites from Dr. Kelly Starett’s work. He has a number of books, and he runs MobilityWOD.com.
Basically, try putting the ball wherever it’s sore, AND HOLD IT THERE. I really like that this separates the men from the boys. Yes it hurts like hell, but it gets results. One ray of hope is that the second time you try one of the mobilizations, it will hurt significantly less. I’ve found that applies for any stretch, exercise, or mobilization I’ve tried.
After massaging one leg, try just standing up and see the difference between the two.
What I’ve found, as I worked through Deskbound, basically everything was sore/messed up.
The book also talks about how to survive in a work environment, and gives recommendations on how to set up a standing desk.
I recommend Deskbound if you’re starting out. Becoming a Supple Leopard is another option. It has more methods, but it’s much more like a textbook. Deskbound reads like a book and requires minimal equipment. There’s also Born to Run, which I haven’t read, but I assume covers similar stuff while focusing on running.
I’ve gotten rid of back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain, wrist pain, fixed injuries. It feels good to move around and not be in pain all the time. Some of the testimonials talk about how people have cured chronic pain, eliminated the need for surgery, or performed better at their sport. My clients talk about it in their testimonials as well.
MobilityWOD is free, so that’s another option if you’re taking the title more literally.