I recently became certified as a Mobility Specialist through Functional Movement Training (FMT). The focus of the certification was on self-myofascial release with tools like a foam roller, foam trigger point ball, roller stick and vibrational massage balls and rollers. During the course, we applied the principles of “Anatomy Trains” Myofacsial Meridians; written by Thomas Myers. Fundamentally speaking there are different lines in body that follow muscle movement patterns which are connected by layers of fascia.
What is Fascia?
Fascia is a network of connective tissue throughout the entire body, it connects skin, to muscle, to bone, ligaments, joint capsules, organs, etc. It is vascular and highly innervated which means it sends information to the brain about movement, body awareness, and pain. Knowing the pattern that fascia moves within the body also gives greater understanding to identify tight muscle groups. An injury can influence another part of the body due to the fascial restriction pulling on the line or chain.
Knowing what fascia is helps athletes or active individuals understand how to better care for their muscles.
During the last few weeks, I have been working with groups of athletes to demonstrate how they can self-assess to find their fascial restrictions in and then massage out the trouble spots. I have found that not just one tool fits all. There are different tools that work best for different areas of the body, so it is my suggestion to try several different items. I personally have 3 different foam rollers, several small rubber and foam balls, a rolling massage stick and vibrating ball and foam roller. I am relatively active as a massage therapist and gymnastics coach, so I do get sore muscles frequently from overuse, poor posture, and recurring injuries.
I would like to share my opinion and professional recommendations for self-care tools:
I find these are great for recovery rolling when you want a little more pressure in large muscle groups like hamstrings, quads, mid back, lats and thoracolumbar fascia.
Rubber and foam balls:
Great for bottoms of feet and getting deeper into trigger point areas like upper and mid traps. I like using these for releasing my glutes and deep hip flexors (iliopsoas), also great for the TFL. Again it’s like a thumb in a very precise location to release a trigger point.
Rolling massage Stick
These are handheld and great for areas like calves, shins, hamstrings, quads and IT band. I like that you don’t use a lot of pressure so it’s great for all over prep massage to wake up the muscles.
Vibrating balls and rollers
Depending on the pressure and setting, these are great before practice as a pre-event massage to wake up and liquefy cellular matrix and fascia. Studies have shown that using vibrational stretching before exercise increases explosiveness and flexibility which is ideal in gymnastics. Vibrational tools may also improve sensory proprioception when used as stability training devices. An example of this would be attempting to hold the vibrating ball standing with shoulders protracted as one would be in a handstand. After 20 seconds, put the ball down and attempt to do the handstand. The athlete will immediately notice more sensory feedback in their arms and hands.
What tools do I use?
Right now, I am using a lot of TPtherapy products that can be found here. I like the diverse selection of products for self-care and rolling.
There are a lot of places that do have foam rollers, balls and massage sticks. I have seen them everywhere from Dicks, TJ Maxx, Wal-Mart and even 5 Below also Amazon is a great resource.
I hope this has been helpful to guide you in selecting your self-care tool kit.