Updated: May 23
Stress, fatigue, long days of sitting, and your workouts can all contribute to muscle tension. How can you relieve it? There are many DIY ways to alleviate muscle tension, from self massage tools, to stretching, and rolling muscle groups, starting with myofascial release.
Myofascial Release is a hands on method that involves applying gentle and sustained pressure to an area of the body. Often used in traditional massage, you can also practice this at home using resources such as a foam roller or massage stick. Utilizing muscular tension reduction practices regularly can boast many benefits, such as supporting a healthy range of motion, flexibility, balance and coordination, so you can get back to feeling great faster. Here are a few of my favorite myofascial release tools.
The foam roller gained popularity by runners years ago as a way to combat a tight IT band, but they can do so much more! There are many styles and sizes to choose from, the standard size is about 3" in diameter and 36" in length. Their simple foam construction provides a smooth yet sturdy surface that is able to maintain shape regardless of the amount of weight put upon it, making it a truly invaluable self massage tool for any age or size. By strategically rolling your body weight in targeted areas (such as the back, legs, and shoulders) you are able to increase blood flow and circulation to soft tissue areas, which is important for breaking up tension and improving elasticity.
Massage balls are small, portable, and ideal for targeting hard to reach muscles. They come in a few sizes, weights, and styles, ranging from soft with bumpy spikes to hard and smooth surfaces. You want to choose the size that best suits the area of the body you are targeting, the heavier the weight, the more sturdy it will be, and the surface relative to the pressure you want to apply to the area of tension. Massage balls are especially helpful for relieving tension in the glutes, hamstrings, traps, chest, shoulders and bottom of the feet.
Massage sticks are a great resource for undoing knots and relieving tension. You are able to control the amount of pressure applied by how hard or soft you press the stick against those tight areas of the body. They come in a few styles, smooth and with rotating balls that apply soft pressure points to help increase blood flow by massaging tissues and muscle. I have used both and prefer the smooth stick and find it most versatile, however both are great. Massage sticks are excellent for reliving tension i your quads, hamstrings, IT band.
Both cost effective and easy to keep on hand. If you have a four-legged friend or kiddos in the house, you probably already have a few lying around, and now you have another great use for them. You can use a tennis ball similarly to a massage ball or stick, to relieve tension in harder to reach areas of the body, such as the shoulders, chest, and glutes.
Bottom line: myofascial release focuses on reducing tension and tightness in areas of the body by addressing trigger points. Self massage techniques are a great way to release muscle tension held in areas of the body by relieving tight muscle fibres that typically cause and contribute to stiffness, aches, and pains.
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