You could be training for a marathon or just sitting at your desk all day, either way, your muscles undergo stress. This stress can result in fatigue, tightness and even pain. This can sometimes be relieved by a good night’s sleep or a few stretches. But there are times when the problem is deeper and affects your body’s fascia.
Fascia: the thin, multi-layer connective tissue that encases your muscles, organs and bones. It is strong, but sensitive, and because it’s laced with nerves, it can tighten up into sticking points, called adhesions, and cause pain.
Almost anything we do can cause fascia-related muscle pain and tightness, from sleeping in an awkward position, lifting weights too frequently or sitting for extended periods to experiencing a hard fall. When these issues are not addressed, the tissue, brain and central nervous system continue to tighten and brace the affected area which may lead to concentrated areas of muscle tissue that are compressed and squeezing nerves – i.e. pain.
Fortunately, there are a number of ways to address tight fascia and trigger points, many of which can be performed on your own:
1 Massage Tools
Head to any sports store and you’ll find numerous massage tools, from foam rollers to acupuncture mats. Designed to target trigger points, tight fascia and stiff muscles these tools help you to relieve stress and improve circulation while improving recovery and performance.
2 Massage Guns
Massage guns are a growing trend in warmup and recovery tools. Famed for their ability to increase range of motion and reduce stiffness the percussive nature of the gun increases blood flow to the muscle tissues, which can prepare your body to move. And it can also flush lactic acid buildup out of the muscles, with studies finding vibration therapy can reduce delayed onset muscle soreness.
3 The Stick
Simply, a taut stick surrounded with plastic rollers which can be pushed up and down your body, letting you apply as much pressure as needed. It’s a great alternative to a foam roller, kneading the muscles in a similar fashion. But it can be difficult to use in hard-to-reach places like your upper back or shoulders, so you may need to call on a buddy for help.
4 Lacrosse/Hockey Balls
An easy alternative to buying fancy tools is to use a lacrosse, hockey, or even a cricket ball on the floor and lie on it, or put one up against a wall and lean into it. The dense ball can dig into your muscles and fascia to release trigger points, from your feet to your neck. If you need to work around a tendon or your spine, try putting two balls into a sock. This creates a peanut shape with a gap in the middle so you can miss those sensitive areas. If the lacrosse ball is too intense, try a tennis ball.
Remember though, you may not be able to fix everything yourself. If you are experiencing ongoing pain it may be time to see a professional physical therapist, chiropractor or acupuncturists for help.
Of course, you don’t need to be in pain to use any of these techniques, after all, a little time on occasional maintenance will help you perform better and be less likely to require significant treatment down the road.