1. Deal with pain first. If your shoulder hurts, work on it. Use your self-massage tools on the spot that is the most uncomfortable, if tolerable, until it no longer hurts. If the discomfort is too much to handle, then try a spot in the neighborhood of the trigger point and work your way towards it. For example, this morning I noticed that the front of my arms felt uncomfortably tight. I sit in front of a laptop regularly, so I worked on the front of my shoulder, knowing they are tight. I used my YTU Therapy Balls in my chest, working on pectoralis major and minor (and any neighboring tissues), and then did some work on the biceps. Then rolled out the upper back/scapula work, because there are ALWAYS knots there (I don’t think I’m the only one). I would have gone on for hours, but Ella was insistent on her walk happening then =)
2. Don’t get tied up about technique. While there are different techniques in soft-tissue release such as stripping, cross-fiber, pin and stretch, contract/relax, etc., once you get on a tool, your body will tell you what to do. If you are serious about improving flexibility and mobility, it behooves you to learn the techniques and master them (Jill Miller’s Massage Therapy DVD is a great place to start), but sometimes all you need is to lay on something (like a therapy ball, rolled up towel, tennis ball, etc.) until the spot that is bothering you no longer hurts.
3. Take your time. If you get into a position and you feel a stretch, stay there for a while (90 seconds +++) and hunt around for some other tight tissues in that position. Hamstrings do not run just down the back of your leg, they have fibers running closer to the midline, closer to the lateral (outside) aspect of your leg, and must be stretched appropriately. Just because you touched your toes for 10 seconds and felt a pull in the back of your leg does not mean that you’ve actually changed tissue length or improved range of motion. Leave no movement uncharted and be sure you are in a good position the entire time! Remember when we talked about posture and how to stand? Get your spine into the best position possible before you move for the most effective stretch.
4. Be consistent. You will get the most out of stretching and self-massage if you do it on a regular basis. And not once-a-month-regular-basis, but more like every-day-regular-basis. Your body wants to stay the way it is and it will take a lot of effort on your part to change that. Don’t give up because you missed a day or two, get back onto the floor and stretch and roll!
What are you waiting for? Start dealing with your own pain and discomfort today instead of waiting for a total body breakdown before doing something. Whether you’ve been suffering with chronic pain, or just a first time twinge, you have all you need to get started. The Internet is an amazing resource, but you can always come to class for personalized tips ;) I will leave you with just enough time to come up with some excuses, as they will be debunked next post!