A client asked me recently about a myofascial release self treatment tool she had seen online for “releasing the psoas muscle.” She was wondering if it might be something helpful to purchase, if it might do more, faster, than what we had been doing.
I took a look at the website for the tool she asked about and cringed at the description for how to use the tool. It is designed to press deeply into tissues and allow a person to apply a lot of pressure.
That right there was a red flag. Red flags continued to pop up as I watched a few of the instructional videos. And gave me what I needed to know to respond to our client’s questions.
How you approach myofascial release self treatment matters
We tend to talk a lot about how you approach something. Talk about the importance of working with what the body is able to allow, being able to sink and soften for a period of 3-5 minutes or longer into a stretch or over a ball or myofascial release self treatment tool. We review over and over with you how you are self treating in between your visits with us to make sure you are able to sense when you might be working too hard and ease up so your body can soften and allow.
It is vitally important to be aware of how you are treating yourself in between sessions with us. (Hint: this doesn’t just apply to the time you spend with self treatment. . .)
Many people try to make things change faster, thinking with more pressure or digging into tight areas, the tissues will change more quickly. The opposite is frequently true.
One of the main functions of the myofascial system is to provide structure and support to the body. Fascial tissue has a high tensile strength and when restricted can put almost 2000 lbs of pressure per square inch on nerves, blood vessels, and organs. What that means is that it is incredibly difficult to force through restricted fascial tissues. You might do it, but you will be fighting against the protective mechanisms of the body as you do. In addition, forceful breaking up of tight tissues is often perceived by the body as trauma and injury, with a need to lay down thicker tissue to protect and repair.
Is that really what you want to be doing?
So how do I best use myofascial release self treatment tools?
I answered our client’s question the way we answer many questions about the use of tools for self treatment. It is not so much what you are using as it is how you are using it. It is not so much what you do as how you do it.
Can using a foam roller be helpful? Depends. Crushing tissues by rolling through them in a way that makes you grit your teeth while you force yourself to do it. . . probably not helpful in the long term if you are looking to improve your relationship with your body. Using the roller in areas of tightened tissue in a way that you can sink and soften slowly over it for a period of several minutes without force. . . much, much better. The same applies to use of a golf ball, tennis ball, lacrosse ball, molded plastic tools, a thumbby, and even one of our inflatable 4” balls.
Have questions about your myofascial release self treatment tools?
We love hearing about new myofascial release self treatment tools! (Another client recently brought in a pelvic clock, which I happen to enjoy using because it offers different support under my sacrum than a ball or sacrowedge.) Wondering if something might be helpful? You can always ask yourself, am I able to sink and soften and allow my body to settle into what I am using? If I’m not, is there something I can shift or a way in which I can support my body so I can soften? If the answer to either of these questions is no, you may want to reconsider how you are treating your body.
And if you are still unsure, or would like our take on things, let us know. We would be happy to talk through things with you.