Don’t like getting massages?
Feel like your muscles are always tight and painful?
Want to be more independent with managing your pain?
Self massage tools can be a cheap and effective way to manage your pain and release tight muscles. I tend to recommend them to most of my patients as they are an excellent way to help release tight muscles, allowing them to become more independent in managing tight spots and niggles.
While stretches are a great way to release muscles, self massage tools have the advantage of being more specific as they are able to target particular sections of your muscles that you can’t pinpoint with stretches.
So how do these self massage tools work?
They primarily work by targeting our myo-fascial system, with ‘myo’ meaning muscle and ‘fascia’ being the continuous layer of connective tissue that surrounds all the structures inside our body, including our muscles.
A lot to the aches and pains we feel in our muscles are due to what we call ‘trigger points’ and are closely linked to common conditions such as lower back, neck and shoulder pain.
Trigger points or ‘muscle knots’, as they are commonly known, are patches of tightly contracted muscle. When pressed on they can be painful enough to cause you to jump and can refer pain to other areas of the body (e.g. when a trigger point in a neck muscle is pressed it can elicit symptoms of a headache).
Because of how specific we can be with self massage tools, they can be a very effective way to release ‘trigger points’ that you may have in your muscles. If you want to learn more about trigger points then check out this video.
Fascia plays a crucial role in the support and function of our bodies, since it surrounds and attaches to all structures. Normally our fascia should be relaxed and loose to allow all the parts inside our body to glide easily over each other.
But due to factors such as physical injury, stress, poor posture and a lack of movement, we can develop tension in our fascia which can limit movement, cause pain and affect our ability to perform our daily activities.
Self massage tools, especially foam rollers, are a great way to mobilise the fascial connections. If you want to learn more about the role and importance of fascia check out this video.
But with all the self-massage tools out there it can be hard to decide which tool to use and know how to properly use them. I’ll be drawing from my 10 years of experience as a physiotherapist to help you decide which tool is going to be most beneficial for you and how to properly use them.
So here we go, drum roll please….
1. Foam Roller
Foam rollers are probably the most well known self massage tools with most people having at least seen or used one in their lives. These are probably the strongest but least specific of the tools so are good for targeting those big muscle groups such as the quads, hamstrings, TFL and the lower back muscles and great for releasing those fascial connections.
Below are some great ways to release using the foam rolle
2. Spiky Ball/Lacrosse ball
These are one of my favourite tools to use because they are a great all round massage tool due to its versatility. Being a bit smaller than the foam roller they can also target a lot of smaller muscle trigger points and can be used on most areas of the body including the pecs, lats, glutes, calf and foot muscles. They are also handy as they fit in your bag, so are great to travel with!
Below are some great ways to use the spiky balls.
As the name suggests, these are great for releasing muscles all along the spine, going from the neck all the way down to the lower back. Due to the shape of the Bakballs they are great for targeting the muscles that run along either side of the spine.
Below are some ways you can use the back balls.
4. Pocket Physio
The pocket physios are a great and portable way to really get into self releasing anywhere, anytime. It’s like having a physio in your pocket! As they are the smallest of all the tools I mentioned, they are great for reaching those hard to reach and awkward areas like between the shoulder blades and behind the shoulders.
Below are some ways you can use the pocket Physio.
So now we know why we use them, let’s talk about when we should be using them.
At RedoHealth we commonly find that most people tend to have certain trigger points and tension in their fascia that are associated with certain pains. So we often encourage our clients to use these tools to help release these areas especially when they feel their pain is returning. They’re also great to use before and after workouts, especially after a tough run or gym session.
And just remember, the old adage of ‘no pain, no gain’ is especially true with self massage tools, so be prepared to go through a little bit of pain, but when you release the right spot, the results can be truly amazing.