On this page we show how you can be your own body work specialist, so that
you can keep yourself largely free from muscle pain by performing a simple daily self-massage.
Initially you should be able to eliminate existing acute or dormant "trigger points" by using this technique (and maybe a visit or two to a professional bodywork person).. This way, you can achieve a state where your muscles become limber and in a non-contracted condition.
Then, as an on-going basis, you massage out any new trigger points as they may come up, and also warm up your muscles each morning (similiar to stretching). This keeps your muscles supple.
Translation: I want to show you how to keep doing the things you did when you were young, with no limitations!
Something to consider before you embark on this muscle work:
Let's say you really "throw out/pull/overstretch" some muscle(s) such as your lower back (perhaps by picking
up that 50 pound bag of pea gravel, or your 4-year old grandkid who no longer is light as he/she was
as a baby)! If it really hurts to touch or massage the affected region, maybe it would be well to have a session
with a body work pro. They can tell you if whether or not there was some partial tissue damage. If so,
it would be well to let the area heal for a while before trying to massage it.
So, this self-applied massage can be done while standing up, or while sitting.
It is best done in the morning, usually before breakfast. Why is that? Because you will start your day with your muscles all
warmed up and partially stretched. This alone will make you less likely to "pull" a muscle during the day.
When you first start doing this, you will encounter some tender spots. (I'll point out the most likely areas in the pictorials below.) These will usually be trigger points. You can massage these out over the course of several sessions, usually by applying a firm pressure, along with a short stroking motion. Details and good tips on the technique are in the Trigger Point Manual. Nonetheless, when you are just starting out, it will be well to work the area only briefly. Then move on to other areas. After a few days, or maybe even a week or two for some spots, you will find that the tenderness will be gone.
You might be tempted to really press hard on these irritated areas, in an effort to "release" the trigger points. I urge you to instead to start out with relatively light pressure and/or strokes. If you feel a burning sensation or other irritation, then stop, since you might simply be "spreading inflammation around"! The result will be that you are even more sore. Just revisit the area the next day.
Oh, and one final note: Drink some water after you work on trigger points! This was the number one tip from the body work pros. They would even give me a bottle of water to drink on the way home. Why? Because you've just released a good deal of toxins and they need to be flushed out.
Start with the arms
Muscle names: biceps, triceps, et al.
Your hand and arm muscles are about to get a workout, since they'll be applying pressure to various points
through this procedure. So It's well to warm up these muscles beforehand.
The forearms and hands
Muscle names: Extensor carpi, extensor digitorum, flexor carpi, bradioradialis and many others (forearms). Opponens pollicis, adductor pollicis, et al (thumb area)
Massage the muscles on the forearm (left) and then work the hand muscles around the thumb
(right). Rub all around the thumb and the palm area. It's also beneficial to massage the back side
of the hand between the thumb and first finger.
The front and back of the armpit
Muscle names: pectoralis (front), subscapularis (back)
NOTE: Likely tender areas!
The whole point of the daily self-massage #1:
Right side: Now reach under your arm and massage the muscle that's in the back of the armpit. This is the "subscapularis", and will also likely contain tender spots. It might be helpful to lean against the wall (or the chair back if seated) to help reach this muscle. That is, if you are doing the right side, lean your left shoulder against the wall in order to help push your left arm into a better position to grasp the muscle.
Now a little work on your face and jaw
Muscle names: Masseter (jaw)
Left side: Place your fingers above the bridge of the nose and stroke outward. Your fingers should actually
be right on the top of your eye sockets. This actually has a soothing (and partially clearing) effect on your sinuses.
The whole point of the daily self-massage #2:
Next up is the neck muscles
Muscle names: Sternocleidomastoid, levator scapulae, suboccipitals, splenius, semispinalis
NOTE: Likely a tender area.
Some work on muscles near the neck
Muscle names: Upper trapezius
Now firmly pinch the muscles on top of the shoulders. To do this, fold your thumb into your palm and then pinch the muscles between your fingers and the folded thumb. Move up the side of the neck, pinching repeatedly until you reach your hairline. These areas, along with your neck itself, will likely be tender when you start this daily treatment, and for that matter any time you have been working at the computer for a while, or doing physical work, or exercises - that is, just about all the time!
The whole point of the daily self-massage #3:
Having prepped your arm muscles (and maybe working any sore area if necessary),
and having massged your neck, now it's time to reach for the Theracane to massage your upper and
lower back, your glutes, and your hamstrings.
As noted on the prior page, I prefer to pad the "business end" of the Theracane with a couple of children's tube socks, held in place with some thin nylon twine. But I decided to remove the padding for the pictures below.
The Upper Back
Muscle name: Trapezius
NOTE: Likely tender areas!
Maintaining spinal alignment
Muscle names: rhomboids, serratus, quadratus lumborum.
NOTE: May be tender areas next to the spine
There are two sets of short muscles in the upper back that connect individual vertabrae to the
scapula (shoulder blade). And there are others in the mid/lower back that connect individual
vertabrae to some of the ribs and/or the top of the pelvis.
More Tools of the Trade: Vive Double Lacrosse Massage Ball set
To help massage the muscles that connect directly to the vertabrae, it is often helpful to place a joined set
of Lacrosse Balls behind you on the wall, such that your spine is between them. Move up and down by
bending your knees while leaning firmly against the wall. This is also really good exercise for your leg muscles!
Shoulder Areas of Upper Back
Muscle names: Supraspinatus, infraspinatus, deltoids
While you are tending to your upper back, you will find it comforting to massage the muscles in the shoulder area next to the scapula (left), and sometimes the deltoids (right).
The Lower Back
Muscle names: longissimus, iliocostalis, quatratus lumborum
NOTE: More tender areas!
Applying greater pressure
Muscle names: Various
Having a little extra discomfort in the back muscles? You can apply greater pressure by lying on
a mat and prying up with the T.C.
Working on the glutes
Muscle names: gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, gluteus minimus
Place the T.C. on the lower part of the glutes and pull upward. You can use quite a bit of pressure
here. The gluteus maximus is the biggest muscle, and it covers the medius and minimus.
The whole point of the daily self-massage #4:
Muscle names: Biceps femoris, semitendinosus, semimembranosus
This is the last item for the T.C. Start just behind the knee (left side) and stroke toward your bottom
And Lastly, the Foot and the Lower Leg
Muscle names (foot): Adductor digiti minimi, flexor digitorum brevis, adductor hallucis, flexor hallucis ("hallucis" is the big toe)
NOTE: Likely some tender areas! For example, have you noticed that your foot hurts when
you step on a shovel? That's muscle trigs on the bottom of your feet. You can eliminate them!
Muscle names: Gastrocnemius, soleus, tibialis posterior
NOTE: Likely some tender areas, particularly for you ladies that like platform shoes!
More Detail on the Calves
Muscle names: flexor digitorum longus, flexor hallucis longus
While you are working the lower leg, from time to time you can massage the "flexor digitorum longus".
This muscle is responsible for flexing the toes upward. It is on the front side of the leg, next to the tibia bone.
This is the side facing "outward" (where the fingers are positioned in the images).
Lower Part of the Soleus
Muscle name: soleus
From time to time, massage the lower part of the big soleus muscle, on the lower part of your calves.
This is where the thumbs are positioned in the images
Last Self-massage: the quads and the "I.T. band"
Muscle names: Quadriceps: rectus femoris, vastus intermedius, vastus lateralis. Side of thigh: iliotibial band
Using supported fingers, stroke your quadriceps repeatedly (shown on left). Note that the quads really like to
be massaged, and will reward you with some "feel-good" endorphins.
You will find that after you do this daily self-massage, you will have warmed up quite
a bit. This self-massage is a great way to take away the early morning chill before you eat breakfast.
It's also a good time to do a few of your favorite muscle stretches.
NOTE: The keyword is after your self-massage! Your muscles should be warmed up a bit first.
No stretching on muscles with trigs! Muscles with active trigger points are muscles that are already contracted and tight. Trying to stretch these muscles is a bit like trying to stretch a rubber band that is holding a 10 pound weight!
Stretches should be gentle! This ain't exercise. It's actually a form of relaxation. Pull the desired muscles slowly at first and then with gradually increasing force. If there is any discomfort, pause, let the muscles adjust, and then maybe resume stretching. Or stop and go to another muscle group. You can even empasize the "relaxation" part by exhaling slowly when pulling on the muscles.
After a few weeks of the self-applied massage and gentle stretching, the muscles will become pregressively less "stiff", and you will notice that you are able to go tighter with the stretches.
Calf Stretch and Psoas Stretch
On the left, we show the typical calf stretch. Lean against the wall or a doorway and stretch your calf
muscles, both left and right. In this picture I am stretching the right calf.
On the far left, I show a good stretch for the quadriceps.
Three More Stretches
Finally, I lean over and touch my toes (with 3 or 4 "warmups" before trying to fully touch my toes).
Doing all this muscle work would be a great way to start your day in the morning.
Preferably every day, but at least consider it two or three days a week. Remember, it is quite possible
to eventually eliminate muscle soreness from your life.
But don't let the Well Being Mindfulness stop after these self-treatments. Keep it thoughout the day. How? By observing your posture throughout the day. You know. Everything your mom, your chiropractor, your massage therapist have been telling you to do:
Stand and walk upright (like you are winning the war against gravity).
Sit up straight. No, really!
And don't be reading books or working on laptops with your head down (and having to be supported by all your suboccipital muscles). Prop up the books and get an external screen for that laptop - if you use one on a daily basis.
And last but not least. . . let your shoulders relax every chance you get. They're all scrunched up right now, aren't they, supporting your tensions, your worries, your work-related stresses, maybe even your weekend or vacation plans. Play some soft music and listen to that quiet voice that says "Be still."
Copyright © 2019 J.A.