Joan Cole Massage

State of the Art Bodywork at Studio Helix

Studio Helix Logo

Self Myofascial Release and Trigger Point Tools

mood photo

There are a lot of things you can do for yourself once you have learned to recognize the feeling of a restriction "releasing", and have developed a sense of the rhythm of work needed by having experienced the work done for you by a capable bodyworker. You can work on yourself with your own fingers (if they are strong enough and you can reach that part of your body), other parts of the body (like the heel for massaging the top of the other foot or calf), or with tools.

Stuff you can probably find around the house

Tennis balls are a classic self-massage tool. This article describes the process. The first part of this video by Trevor Chisman demonstrates using a tennis ball against a wall. Paul Ingraham has a good article about tennis ball self-treatment with more tips. Michael Reid has a nice article and video about working on the shoulder area. The Kong Dog Toy is a little firmer than a tennis ball, and also has a knobby shape you might like. For work in areas too small for a tennis ball, pink gum erasers are also good.

Fancy Variations on Tennis Balls

Pro-Tec Plantar Fasciitis Massage Balls

Foot Rubz Massager

Body Back Porcupine Massage Ball

Foam Rollers

Foam rollers come in a variety of colors and materials. The white ones are generally the softest. You will get less pressure, but if your body is not accustomed to doing this kind of myofascial work, it will be less painful. Being softer, the white rollers tend to break down, becoming compressed into a more oval shape with time. Medium pressure comes from blue or green rollers, generally closed cell polyethelene or EVA foam. The densest, for hardest pressure, comes from the black rollers made from high density foam. There are also rollers with a textured surface, like the Rumble Roller and the GRID. The texture makes the tool more expensive, but also gives a bit of a kneading action as you roll.



These are especially beloved by runners, and are a bit more portable than foam rollers. You roll them over the area, such as the calf or low back.

Tiger Tail (more info)

The StickĀ® - (more info)

Precision Tools for Trigger Point Work

Acuforce Massage Star - This tool is heavy for being able to work deeply more easily and has three different shaped edges

Theracane - Great for hitting specific points in the back or neck with leverage (more info)

Index Knobber (more info)


DaVinci Tool

In Summary

With self myofascial release, when you find the tight spot with your tool, slow down or stop and let the tight spot "melt" over the tool. If you just roll over it quickly, you will accomplish nothing more than annoying the knot. Be aware that with some conditions, this type of work can be too aggressive. Pushing your body farther than wants to go can lead to rebound pain. Do a little at a time and don't brutalize yourself. If you don't get a release, you might be coming at the knot from the wrong angle, pressing too hard, or not enough, or very often, moving too fast. Be patient with yourself. Once an area starts letting go, give the body time to unwind it further on its own. Overtreatment can lead to bruises or slower healing. The precision tools are easier to overtreat with, so you might want to start building your skills with balls and rollers, and move to precision tools when your skills are more polished.

Obviously, tools have no intelligence - you will have to supply that. The best tool can't help with the problem that the location of a restriction is often not where the pain is felt, but that is something you will learn either through experimentation, or by paying attention when receiving bodywork. The following book is a good start for figuring out referral patterns.

Clair Davies' Book about Trigger Points, The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook: Your Self-Treatment Guide for Pain Relief is written for the layperson, and goes into ways to figure out which muscle is probably needing work, and tips on how to position yourself and what tools might help to do the work.

If you are still wondering why these items might be helpful, I describe the physiology and treatment strategies for trigger points, fascial adhesions and shortenings in the description of my Targeted Knotwork session.