Musicians' Health Collective

Musicians' Health Collective: Supporting the health of musicians (and normal people)

Filtering by Tag: self massage

Running Recovery

This past weekend was one of the big marathons in my area, and watching people finish made me glad that I did not in fact participate, and more importantly, made me think of ways that runners might recover after such a race.  Here are a few of my favorite videos for self care after a race:

I love a little bit of rolling for center of glutes to prime your hips for daily life, but also to manage any overuse.

This is a video from friend and colleague Alexandra Ellis which goes through the 90/90 stretch, or the pinwheel hips of the mermaid in pilates.  It can be easy to neglect external and internal rotation when training for a race, and this is a good movement to add to the traditional work.

Lastly a quick calf roll out with a therapy ball, tennis ball, or softer ball can help restore foot and ankle movement.

What is a Muscle Knot?

Last week I mentioned the importance of getting bodywork to target muscle knots- I imagine that few people see muscle them as literal knots, but what are they exactly and how do they exist?

There are a few words to know first- trigger points and fascial adhesions.  I mentioned trigger points last week, but "a skeletal muscle tissue trigger point is a hyperirritable focal area of muscle hypertonicity (tightness) located within a taut band of skeletal muscle tissue." (Joseph Muscolino)  These areas of tightness often cause pain and discomfort, especially in those overused musician areas of the upper back.  The word trigger point came to use in the 1940's because of a Doctor Janet Travell (yes, an awesome woman pain doctor in the first half of the twentieth century!) and her research into myofascia, trigger points, and pain.

This is Dr. Janet Travell, who was also a white house physician!  Image from her website.

This is Dr. Janet Travell, who was also a white house physician!  Image from her website.

It is not something subjective, not something of which the patient complains. It is an objective physical sign in that it is disclosed by physical examination of the patient. Then, the trigger point is identified as a localized area, a spot of deep tenderness in a firm band of muscle that can be readily felt. Usually the palpable band parallels the muscle fibers; occasionally it feels like a button, or a nodule. At the spot of maximum tenderness (the trigger point), if the band is snapped briskly (transversely), and is thus mechanically stimulated, it contracts; this we have called a ‘local twitch response.’ The examiner can feel and see the line of contraction of the band, and can judge which muscle harbors it.
— Janet Travell, Basic Principles of Myofascial Pain, 1984
Remember this image from  last year's fascia post?  Fascia is everywhere in the body and is the "body's aqueous knitting fabric" (Jill Miller)!

Remember this image from last year's fascia post? Fascia is everywhere in the body and is the "body's aqueous knitting fabric" (Jill Miller)!

In some of Janet Travell's other writing, she talks about how the trigger point affects muscle strength and reflexivity, joint mobility, and radiates pain to surrounding areas.  (She was also a general badass and way ahead of her time in many other ways!)   There is a fair amount of disagreement about what causes trigger points, though we can all agree overuse, misuse, and abuse are contributing causes.  Carry a large purse on one side of your upper back and chances are, your trapezius will tighten up and eventually form a trigger point that could radiate into your forearm and neck, like the picture below. 

Images like this are usually referring to trigger points, or areas of myofascia that radiate sensation and pain to surrounding areas.

Images like this are usually referring to trigger points, or areas of myofascia that radiate sensation and pain to surrounding areas.

Now what's a fascial adhesion and is there a difference between that and a trigger point?  Andrew Biel writes that a consistently shortened or lengthened muscle will cause change within the muscle and the fascia, which may grow "dense and fibrous.  The excess connective tissue can result in fascial adhesions that affix one muscle to another, limiting range of motion."  (Trail Guide to Movement, 12)  Remember that fascia is everywhere in the body, like the white stuff in a citrus fruit giving structure to the juice within.  Your fascia can be dehydrated (think gross grapefruit!) or overgrown from a trauma or from overuse/underuse.  Adhesions address fascia, according to some folks, and also address scar tissue and an abundance of collagen from healing.  For example, if you had tendonitis in your forearm when you were younger, you may have some scar tissue lingering in that location- it might not be extremely painful but it might be hindering your ability to use your forearm and hand.  Trigger points are generally thought of as more muscular/myofascial in origin, though to be frank, your body's network of muscles and fascia is continuous!  There is a fair amount of disagreement in the manual therapy world about what causes what, and how things cause pain, and why they arise in the body, so this is just a general survey.

How can you help both your trigger points and your adhesions?  Well, go get some bodywork and talk to your bodyworker about what they find and what tissues they find acting abnormally.  Consider getting on the self-massage train and start excavating these issues yourself, and look into different types of bodywork.  Cranio-sacral vs. rolfing vs. deep tissue vs. graston technique.  Get curious!

8 Tips to Stay Sane For the Holidays

For most people, the holidays are a stressful time, whether it's because of the flurry of activity, the holiday gigs, the gift buying, or the long encounters with family with questions like, "What will you do with your life/job/relationship/freelance life?."  Our body can stay in a place of sympathetic dominance if we're not careful, and our body can get out of whack if left in that state for too long.  Here are some of my favorite things to keep it together during the holidays.

1. Get enough sleep.  Easier said than done, but all too crucial.  Too many days of diminished sleep make me enormously grumpy and dysfunctional.

2. Can't sleep well?  Try constructive rest-  a practice of introverting your attention and resting for any time.  Here's my girl Brooke Thomas' introductory video on constructive rest.

3.  While this might not be a good time to start a brand new meditation practice, it's always a good time to breathe and breathe mindfully.   I love this chat with Aline Benoit from August to get inspired.  Try a few moments of breathing in a quiet place where you can't be disturbed if you feel the pull of holiday stress derailing your sanity.  It's ok if a million thoughts come up!  I love Maira Kalman's illustrations on meditation, because she basically details her thought process and how difficult it is to focus.

4.  Go for a walk outside if the weather permits.  Walking is a critical movement nutrient that is often neglected in our exercise/sitting regiments.  I find that my mind is always more collected after a walk.

5.  Take a warm bath if you bathtub isn't too gross (or you don't share it with a bunch of people).  If you find your body in pain from playing, sitting, or sleeping, a bath is a lovely way to get blood flow into deprived tissues and decrease stress.

6.  Don't eat all of the sugary things.  I love baking, but I also know that if I eat everything I bake, I will be grumpy and on a sugar crash.  If people bake for the office, class, or studio, it's ok to say no, or just eat a little.  You don't have to eat every sugary thing that manifests in your workplace!  (Sometimes that's chocolate, cookies, sweet bread, and cakes all in one place!)

7.  Do a little self-massage.  Even if you only have a tennis ball or lacrosse ball, roll out your feet or your upper back against the wall.  A little bit of self-care goes a long way, especially if your feet are trapped in boots or high heels all day.

8.  Even if there are many things to stress about during the holidays (relationships, finances, careers, etc.), take a moment to be grateful for what you do have and consider giving back, even if that's just a donation to a food drive, playing for a senior citizen center, or being kind to shopping clerks.  A little bit of gratitude goes a long way in improving morale, even if things aren't the way you wish they were.


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Self Massage techniques (aka. Be a Baller)

Now that I've talked a bit about the value of rolling out your tight tissues, here are a few videos for those of you ready to rock and roll.  (There are lots of ball-related puns.  Sorry).  As a Yoga Tune Up® teacher, I like the YTU® balls, but I've also used pinky balls and lacrosse balls in a pinch.  Here are some of my favorite roll out places to start.

 

Feet: whether you've worn heels or dress shoes, or you just ran a few miles, this feels great.

Upper Back: after a day of playing, or in the morning, this is a nice way to start to unwind.

Jaw/TMJ issues: for all of my wind player, singer, night jaw grinding friends out there!

Neck: this is a great sequence for everyone!


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