Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Self Massage: Feel Like a Million Bucks!

by Dr. Sam Sanzone, DC, Chiropractor & Co-op Wellness Educator

Let’s face it, daily living can be pretty punishing on your body. Muscle tension, knots, painful trigger points, and stiff muscles are just some of the complaints I hear from patients in my office on a regular basis. In working with folks to help diminish their symptoms and maximize their enjoyment of life I will regularly empower them with self myofascial release (self-massage) techniques using foam rollers and other tools. My appreciation of the benefits of this type of work stems from an earlier career as a licensed massage therapist prior to attending graduate school to get my chiropractic degree.

It is common to discover that the low back pain someone is experiencing (by far the most common complaint people bring to my office) is not the result of a direct injury to the lower back. Sometimes it can result from a “knot” in the quadriceps muscles just above the knee, other times it can be the result of trigger points in the gluteus muscles. Often it can be the result of a tight iliotibial (IT) band or hip flexors. By taking a self-guided tour, or exploratory expedition of some of the common causative regions we find that we can locate a major underlying cause of the problems we experience and can bring about some level of relief on our own. After all, there are many tools for individuals to take control of their own health, and that is where health reform begins.

Let’s take a look at what causes trigger points and tight muscles. Many times it can be our own, well-intended fitness endeavors. If our regular exercise plan has us working through old injuries, they may never have the opportunity to fully recover. Often they can be the result of neglect, poor posture, hydration, nutrition or other lifestyle factors. The wisdom in our bodies is always at work trying to compensate for what we subject them to every moment. This is when we need assistance; either self administered or that of a professional. Everyone can benefit from these techniques. Face it: If you’ve lived a perfect life with everything in balance, you would never need to concern yourself with these types of issues... I have yet to meet that person.

The goal of foam rolling is to restore healthy muscle tone, this means your muscles are elastic, healthy, and ready to perform at a moment’s notice – it is not a pain tolerance test. When working on tight/sore muscles, it is normal to experience discomfort or pain. Think of it like the pain you get while stretching. It should be uncomfortable, but not unbearable, and when you are done, it should feel better. The tools I like to recommend include a foam roller, lacrosse ball, Thera Cane, or your own hands. Never roll a joint, and it’s wise to avoid rolling your lower back. To foam roll properly, apply moderate pressure to a specific muscle or muscle group using the roller and your body weight. There are specific techniques and certain precautions that should be taken into consideration. This article is meant as a brief introduction to an extremely rewarding practice of self care. Consider joining Eric Marsh, fitness trainer and I for our upcoming hands-on workshop demonstrating the background and techniques that you can start using right away  - Click here for details and online registration!

Dr. Sam sees clients and runs Community Chiropractic in Concord. Visit

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