It’s been one of the cheapest and most effective self-care techniques I’ve discovered so far.
The only investment I made up front was purchasing a trigger point therapy workbook from Amazon plus a tennis ball and a small bouncy ball/super ball. You can see my trigger point therapy “tools” in the picture on the right. (Ok, I got a foam roller too, but I haven’t really used it like I’ll explain later).
The point I’m trying to make is that I’m always looking for new, techniques I can use to treat my own pains and aches. It’s not that I wouldn’t love visiting massage therapists (I would), but in the long run it’s better and cheaper to learn to take care of yourself. Musculoskeletal pains and chronic muscle tightness is most often caused by bad movement habits, poor posture and physical inactivity.
Those things can’t be cured by passive treatments like pills, massage and physical therapy, especially if you don’t commit to taking care of yourself outside your appointments. You’re just burning money and fooling yourself.
DIY Trigger Point Therapy Is Easy And Effective
Once my book arrived from Amazon, learning to locate and treat my trigger points was super easy. The process of treating trigger points is simple: you use your fingers, knuckles, a ball (tennis ball, bouncy ball) or some other tool like Thera Cane to repeatedly “stroke” the point in one direction (not back and forth).
In my experience, a small bouncy ball has been by far the best tool to work with trigger points. Trigger points are very localized and it’s easier to find the correct spot with a small ball. I use a tennis ball only when I work with the muscles in my middle and upper back where I can’t comfortably reach with my fingers. I do it by placing the tennis ball between my body and the wall and letting it roll against the target muscles.
If the trigger point is bad (i.e. very painful), it will take you a few weeks to get rid of it. (It’s suggested you work a trigger point several times a day, but I usually work with the in the evenings). In practice I work with one body part – like buttocks or thighs – at a time till the trigger points start melting away.
The only problem is that it’s hard for me to reach the muscles on my upper back just using my hands and a ball. For that I would need a better tool like Thera Cane or Body Back Buddy. Thera Cane is on my list of future fitness acquisitions.
Why Not Just Stretch?
Stretching to ease muscle tightness is fine, except that muscles that have trigger points are often chronically shortened and contracted. They simply don’t respond to stretching anymore.
This has been my own experience too. When I started working the trigger points in my left vastus lateralis (outside of thigh), the alignment of my left leg improved immediately.
Another benefit of working with trigger points is that it accelerates recovery from strenuous exercises sessions. And I really need it now when started doing Flavia’s fitness program.
The Pitfalls of Foam Rolling (For Short People)
Lots of people work their muscle kinks by using a foam roller. If you’re a fitness enthusiast, you might have seen videos on YouTube or even tried it using it yourself. Using foam rollers to relieve your muscle tightness has some serious pitfalls though.
The problem is that using a foam roller may be too painful. If you don’t have lots of upper body strength and your trigger points are very painful, it’s unlikely you’re able to control how much pressure you put on the target muscle.
Personally, I wasn’t able to use a foam roller on my iliotibial band (it-band) at all. I simply couldn’t stand it for more than a couple of seconds or so. Using a super ball was a piece of cake compared to that.
Another problem I had with foam rolling was that my arms are very short (I’m 5 ft 1 in). I had to use my push up handles to lift my butt just to be able to work my hamstring muscles. Unless I grow a pair of gorilla arms, I rather work with a ball or a cane than a foam roller!
DIY Trigger Point Therapy Is Addictive
Working your trigger points is can become addictive. What sweet pain! :-) Nowadays I look forward to evenings when I can curl up in bed with my super ball.