Treat yourself

 

Something often asked in the clinic, is what can you do at home in between treatments to keep your body supple and hopefully avoid having to come in in the first place. Well, without giving away all of my trade secrets here’s a few things you can do.

 

Move – It sounds simple, but putting your body in positions and shapes that you aren’t doing on a regular day to day basis is a great place to start. You don’t have to turn yourself into a pretzel either. Movement promotes more flow through the body and will help to keep it supple. If you want a specific routine that’s relevant to your situation, book a session and we’ll put together a program just for you. These appointments can be done remotely too. Make an enquiry for more info.

Foam rollers/spiky balls/other weird self massage tools – there are no shortage of weird and wonderful tools out there that are supposedly the best at releasing this tissue or lengthening that muscle etc. They are no doubt effective (to a degree) and they often come with a slick marketing video and name to match – check out the Hyperice Vyper or the Rumble Roller Beastie Bar for example! But how do they work and what’s the best way to use them?

foam-roller

I’m going to go a bit sciency on you here, but stick with it.

It’s probably physically impossible to ‘release’ or ‘lengthen’ any of the tissue in your body with devices like this. In fact if it was as simple as rolling up and down your leg with a piece of foam (regardless of whether it vibrates or not) to alter tissue, surely you’d have a flat bum and indentations in your hamstrings from the pressure of sitting on chairs all through school (and beyond)?!

A study from 2008 concluded that an external force of around 925kg was required to produce just 1% change in the length of the plantar fascia. Another study showed however, that self-myofascial release resulted in short term flexibility gains of 10 minutes+ , and if you stuck with the program for 2 weeks you could make longer term change. So how is it working if it’s not physically changing the tissue?

“myofascial release is thought to stimulate intra-fascial mechanoreceptors, which cause alterations in the afferent input to the central nervous system, leading to a reduction in the activation of specific groups of motor units. In this way, myofascial release does not affect the physical properties of the muscle or fascia but rather sends signals to the brain through afferent nerves, which then signals to the muscle to relax its excessively contracted state. As noted above, this model assumes that muscle tissue is responsible for the tightness and that it is muscle tissue that is being changed by treatment.” Reference here.

And now in plain English – Myofascial release stimulates receptors in the fascia and muscle, which cause alterations in the input from that area to the brain. Myofascial release doesn’t actually affect the physical properties of the muscle or fascia but rather sends signals to the brain, which then tells the area being treated to relax. Got it? Self myofascial release works, just probably not how you’ve been told it works.

 

So how to apply this at home. Think of the moments after you’ve rolled or used your ball as a window of opportunity. The area is temporarily relaxed and de-sensitised and you can move more freely. Use that window to do the exercises we’ve discussed in clinic or to move the body part in question through its available range of motion. ‘Move it or Lose it’ definitely applies in this case.

One final note – When using a roller/ball – slow and steady wins the race! Move it slowly along the area you are treating, maintaining a relaxed state in the muscles (as much as possible). Don’t forget to breathe too.

Thoughts, comments, questions? Shoot them through! mattj@muscleandmove.com.au