Yoga Tune Up® Blog


When Stretching Just Isn’t Enough, Try Self Massage

A balanced yoga practice is designed to loosen, lengthen, and strengthen, at the same time it invokes a state of calm and peace within both your muscle and mental tissue.   But what if certain areas of the physical body just can’t seem to let go of their tension?

YTU Therapy Balls can work trigger points out of your muscles.

Let’s take the area of the upper back and neck.  The trapezius muscle lies here and deep to it, the levator scapula muscle.  Both can elevate the shoulders towards the ears or in reverse, pull the neck into the shoulders like a turtle’s head retracts into its shell.  Despite the many poses that twist, bend and fold the head in yoga and regardless of how many times or ways you may mentally remind yourself to “let go” in these muscles, there always seems to be a nagging, tugging bound-up sensation.  You may have even given the specific location of pain sensation an endearing name like “my spot.”

In massage therapy, we refer to these spots as trigger points.  A trigger point is a nodule or knot of contracted muscle fibers embedded within a band of a muscle like the trapezius.  These points can be exquisitely tender when palpated or compressed and can even refer pain to other areas of the body.  For example, pressing a trigger point in the shoulder can refer pain into the neck or head.

Stretching is not effective at de-activating these hyperirritable points for two reasons.  First, it would be impossible to isolate any stretch into the exact precise location of a trigger point.  Stretch happens in a broad way across the entirety of a muscle belly from its attachment on one bone to its attachment site on another bone.  Secondly, trigger points require a perpendicular angle of approach.  Pressure needs to be applied directly into the body so that it gently pins and pierces the knotty and adhered fibers and laterally spreads them apart.  Stretching tends to occur more longitudinally from attachment to attachment or end to end, not side to side.   For these reasons, some external pressure that can probe directly into the body and somewhat deeply into the specific location of a trigger point, like a massage therapist’s thumb or elbow, serves the purpose well.   If you cannot get to a body worker regularly (as trigger points need to be continually treated and de-activated until they dissipate completely) then a healthy self-care routine of massage on Yoga Tune Up® therapy balls can provide the same skillful approach a therapists hands can bring.

Like yoga, self-massage employs the process of micro-moving intuitively to your body’s own needs in order to adjust the dial of pressure and positioning (ie. to precisely find “the spot”) so the body can receive the most optimal release with the least amount of your effort.

If you locate a trigger point there are few ways to de-activate it:

Step 1. Attempt to sandwich the knot between the ball and your body.   (Remember pinning the affected area from above and below encourages the parallel fibers to spread laterally so be sure to balance your body enough to stay on top of the trigger point)

Step 2: Deeply breathe and relax every muscle you can while the trigger point is contacted and compressed for about 7-10 seconds.

After treating 3 or 4 trigger points, follow up with appropriate asana or stretching exercises as in this trapezius stretch video.

If you find it simply too painful to be directly on the trigger point, fear not!  Move away from what feels like the epicenter of the trigger point to slightly adjacent to it in any direction and repeat Step 2.

When there is a trigger point in a muscle, that muscle is restricted from fully functioning and therefore neither can the joint to which that muscle attaches.  This can lead to further trigger point formation and disfunction in other muscles and joints that are attempting to compensate for their infirm neighbor!

Self-massage techniques like the one described above isolate, squeeze, compress, melt down and pry loose muscle fibers that have become adhered to each other.  All of this commotion within the tissue increases localized blood circulation and ultimately bathes and re-hydrates the area once you roll off the ball.  Notice any rosy pink spots on your skin after a good session of ballwork?!  Yoga Tune Up® balls tease apart the “sticky” or adhered parts of the tissues, literally separating the individual muscle fibers within the actual muscle so that each fiber can literally “pull its own weight” instead of their neighbor’s. Your muscles are then better able to fully contract and fully release in all of its fibers as any movement dictates.

Ballwork is an energy and cost eficient way to reach all your aches. You can then move with less effort, with less pain or be happily pain-free!

General pregnancy contraindications: center of the top of the trapezius muscle, center of buttocks (center of “back pocket”), and the lower leg.

DiggThis

About This Author

Lillee Chandra, L.M.T. is a former competitive gymnast, dancer and acrobat who specializes in teaching injury rehabilitation, prevention and self-care. She is a licensed massage therapist, a certified Yoga Tune Up® Teacher, the lead Anatomy Yoga Tune Up® teacher trainer for nationally recognized yoga schools and has assisted Jill Miller for several years. Known for her keen intuition, she compassionately leads anyone to become healthfully aligned in their life adventure.

58 Responses to “When Stretching Just Isn’t Enough, Try Self Massage”

  1. Arianna says:

    After our Yoga Tune-Up weekend, I noticed how tight my upper back is. I always knew I had a really tense neck, but i was unaware of how tight my shoulders, especially in my rotator cuff area, actually were. After doing a few of the Yoga Tune Up exercises and having a pain sensation, I was able to become a lot more aware of the sensitivity I have in that area. Since then, I’ve been trying to do more stretches to alleviate the pain, but this article was a nice reminder to use my tune-up balls the proper way AND follow up with stretches. I haven’t had the time or courage to use them since the training, in fear of hurting myself more but this article has given me a nice boost in confidence and a remainder of the correct way to handle this pain. Thanks again!

  2. Heather Lindsay says:

    I love the way you explain this! I have been addicted to trigger point therapy ever since I read books by Bonnie Prudden which of course lead to Travell and Simons’ epic work. A blend of ball therapy, use of knuckles followed by yin yoga has cured many tight and stiff muscles for me.

  3. Allison Shapiro says:

    Lillee – thanks for the cogent explanation. I know stretching isn’t the cure all for all ailments but I didn’t know the anatomy and physiology behind the why (the context grid!). Double and Triple thanking you for your wisdom and know-how.

  4. MaryBeth Frosco says:

    Thanks for the thoughtful insights. I guess the intensity of these trigger points has made me shy away from the therapy balls in the past, but here I am again….saying hello to these “old friends” (?) again. One thing that caught my attention was the termed “referred pain” above. Sometimes I get these referred pains in an area fairly close to a trigger pont I am working with, so that anatomically I can track it. Other times, it pops up a significant distance away and in some other tender spot. I can’t really track it anatomically and wonder if this referred pain is more often related to the fascia than the muscles? Or possibly nerves?

  5. The frequency of ball work to a certain area is a very personal and subjective choice. The more educated you are about anatomy in general and YOUR anatomy specifically (by that I mean how aware are you of your body, i.e. how embodied are you?) the easier it will be to assess when enough is enough. Too often we rely on outside sources to direct us in usage or “dosage” but YTU ball work (and long-lasting healing) requires you to dive into your personal experience much more. As a rule of thumb, if you are working a new area or a compromised one, tread slowly and moderately. If you use the balls daily there, assess your self-care approach for that day by learning to distinguish what is sore from chronic tightness and what is sore from being worked enough the day before. However, if an area has chronic tightness, it needs chronic attention!

  6. Simone says:

    Thank you for sharing this, I have to say that I had chronic problems with my hamstrings and I spent a lot of time stretching them without result. A fews ago I did a whole week of ball work not only on the hamstrings but the muscles behind the leg and it has made a huge difference. What I am not sure of, however, is how much is too much. I worked on my muscles everyday for about 10 days. and they have been pretty okay since. Is it okay work work on the the same muscle everyday?

  7. Erin says:

    The THerapy Balls have changed my world. I couldn’t be more grateful for the chance at some self massage, to locate those blind spots, stuck, muscles, knotted bound up areas. There isn’t a day that goes by that some part of my body isn’t rolled or released, hidden tension, to prepare the body for movement, and de-stress and unwind. The body’s ability to rehabilitate itself when given the opportunity is immense. Fabulous!

  8. [...] Tune Up® Blog « When Stretching Just Isn’t Enough, Try Self Massage Self Massage for Pain Management [...]

Leave a Reply

 

Jill Miller, Creator of Yoga Tune Up®

After studying yoga, movement, and the human body for over twenty years, I created Yoga Tune Up® as a simple way to restore my body and mind, keeping me balanced and free of pain. Using a specific and unique set of poses, movements and self massage tools, you too can LIVE BETTER IN YOUR BODY WITH YOGA TUNE UP®.

 

My Bio

My Schedule

Meet our Teachers

Copyright © 2010-2013 Tune Up Fitness Worldwide, Inc. All Rights Reserved.