How Massage Self-Treatment Can Help Sore Muscles: Part 1
One thing I’ve learned during my 11 month injury rehab is the importance of a good massage. Up until the point I became injured, I could count the number of professional massages I received on one hand.
Finding “The One”
Finding a good massage therapist and massage routine can involve a lot of trial and error. I had visited no less than 5 therapists before I found someone who was knowledgeable about athletes and got me to a place where I was feeling better. After 3 visits, I knew this would be the beginning of a long-term relationship.
I’ve settled into a routine of a 1 hour massage every-other week. That sounds decadent, but after months of struggling with injury – it seems like a small price to pay to stay healthy.
At Home Self-Treatment
In between massage appointments, I do a lot of work on my own. Due to the nature of my injury – I still struggle with trigger points (or knots) throughout my hamstrings and glutes. Trigger points not only hurt, but can send referred pain throughout the muscle – causing them to remain contracted and weak at the same time.
In talking with my massage therapist and physical therapist, as well as reading the book “The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook: Your Self-Treatment Guide for Pain Relief” by Clair Davies and Amber Davies, I’ve come to understand the techniques of self-treatment I can do at home.
Treating Trigger Points
To treat trigger points, Davies & Davies sets up a few guidelines:
- Use tools
- Use deep stroking massage
- Use short repeated strokes
- Go slowly!
- Use approximately 6-12 stokes per area (takes about 30 seconds)
- Treat the area 3-6 times per day
A little like my search for the perfect massage therapist was my quest for the prefect self-treatment tool. What follows will be a two part post listing the pros and cons of the numerous tools I’ve tried.
- In Part 1, we’ll take a look at the most popular self-treatment tool, the foam roller.
- In Part 2, we’ll dive into a few tools you may not be as familiar with but are just as effective!
Before continuing, I must state – I am not an expert. These are my own personal experiences. There are techniques you’ll want to be familiar with to properly treat an area and limit further injury or damage. Working and consulting with your chiropractor, physical therapist and/or massage therapist is important before you start self-treatment.
Probably the tool most familiar to us as runners – foam rollers are great for larger muscle areas like quads, hamstrings and glutes – and use your body weight to deliver long massaging strokes. Nowadays you can find foam rollers nearly anywhere you shop! A few I’ve tried:
- Cost: $20-$40 (depending on size and quality)
- Pros: Inexpensive and readily available. Great if you’re just getting into foam rolling.
- Cons: Can break down easily after repeated use. Pressure can be inadequate for some people.
The Grid (by Trigger Point Performance Therapy):
- Cost: $65
- Pros: There are three density zones; low & flat (like a palm), high & firm (like finger tips) and medium & tubular (like fingers and thumb) that allow you to customize based on your needs.
- Cons: It costs more than a typical foam roller – but holds up great so is worth the extra spend.
- Cost: $70
- Pros: The ‘bumps’ act like fingers you can settle in on and really help release a nasty knot. It’s available in normal (blue) and x-firm (black). Unless you’re experienced in foam rolling and are looking for lots of firmness, stick with the blue.
- Cons: It looks a bit like a torture device and if you’re not used to foam rolling – it may be a bit intense.
Of the three foam rollers I’ve tried, I’d say the rumble roller is my personal favorite in treating trigger points. However, I give the best “all-around” award to The Grid. In Part 2, we’ll take a look at a few more tools you may find useful in your self-treatment routine.