Any active person from professional athletes to weekend warriors can tell you that myofascial release is essential to keeping them injury-free, and helping them recover and repair more quickly. Sure deep tissue massage and sports massage does the same thing, but few of us are rich enough to be able to afford the weekly or daily treatments that are often needed. So what’s an athlete (professional or recreational) to do?
Finding a massage therapist to massage you for free everyday might be difficult, so self myofascial release is the next logical answer. 😉
Myofascial release is a soft tissue therapy for the treatment of skeletal muscle immobility and pain. This alternative medicine therapy aims to relax contracted muscles, improve blood and lymphatic circulation, and stimulate the stretch reflex in muscles. It can be as painful as heck, but oh so effective! And once you have a few tools you can work on pretty much any area on your body that is giving you grief.
Before I get into what I think are the best tools for the job, I would like to say that if you are experiencing pain on a regular basis in particular areas, you should first consult a sports doctor or physiotherapist to have an assessment done to see where the problem is originating. Many times the place that hurts isn’t even the place that has the issue so it’s important to know what you’re doing. If you have a general tightness or are looking to do fascia release as a preventative measure, you are probably pretty safe to go ahead and start working your kinks out (believe me, you’ll find some!), but even still it’s nice to check with a trainer or fitness professional such as myself who has been trained to identify imbalances and places where fascia is “bunched up” for a little extra guidance.
Now that you’ve been cleared for myofascial release, here are the 5 at-home tools I keep in the living room at all times so we can release tension and fascia while watching TV!
1. Foam Roller
There are lots of fancy foam rollers out there, and even lots of DIY’s on how to make your own making it great for all price points. Currently we have a plain foam roller like this one, but we also have the Trigger Point GRID and the Trigger Point GRID X. They are more substantial, and the grooves are meant to mimic the space between fingers giving you a massage, and those groove allow more blood flow during the rolling process.
The foam roller is my favourite for a general release of my back, and when my ITB or quads are being extra cranky and I can’t quite handle one of the tools below this is what I reach for to get the job done.
2. Flex Fixx Back Fix or Two Tennis Balls in a Sock
You can’t get more basic than this one! If you are on a super tight budget this is the choice for you. Throw a couple tennis balls in a sock and you are good to go. If you are looking for something a bit more substantial check out the FlexFixx Back Fixx for a sturdier version of the same concept.
This is great for releasing tension in specific areas of your spine and neck (make sure your head is resting on a block or stiff pillow). You place the balls on either side of your spine (never ON your spine) and just chill out for a few seconds. If your back is messed up like mine (thank you scoliosis) you may feel some re-adjustments and pops while you are on the balls.
You may remember me writing about the Massage Track last year when it was on Kickstarter. Well I’m happy to say that since then I’ve received my very own and been really enjoying it. It is really great for targeted treatment on your back and neck (much more precise than using the tennis ball method), and offers uses that are pretty difficult with the other options (like a forearm release). Another thing I like about the Massage Track is that it comes with a DVD so you get a bit more instruction on how to use it if you are new to fascia release.
I picked this kit up a few years ago at the CanFitPro conference after a couple sessions hosted by Trigger Point Performance, and I’m so glad I did. That was my first real dive into self myofascial release and learning what I did that day has made a huge impact on my life and my ability to deal with the pain associated with fibromyalgia. In fact, the founder of Trigger Point has fibromyalgia and that was one of the things that drove him to create the company. I’ve got so much use out of my kit, it’s particularly great for travelling since it takes up less room that a foam roller, and even with just the Quad Roller you can do pretty much a full body release.
And finally, we have this scary looking guy – the massage stick. There are lots of these on the market (mine came from Shopper’s Drug Mart), some have spines, some have bumps, some are smooth. Really you can find one to suit whatever level of release you want (the bumpy and spiny ones dig a little deeper so can get you a better release).
I really love this for a quad release. Doing a quad release with any of the other tools can be a bit tiresome since you have to hold up your body weight. With this you can sit down and roll away like you are using a rolling pin (which you actually can use but it’s pretty hardcore!). This is also great for getting your inner thighs which can be a bit tricky with the other methods.
There you have my top 5 at-home myofascial release tools/kits. If you are brand new to myofascial release and need some help figuring out what to do with a foam roller, here is a great routine from Tone It Up to give you some hints – enjoy!
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