Self-treatment, while important in any healing process, is an especially important part of maintaining and reinforcing the benefits achieved during a Myofascial Release treatment session. Self-treatment also helps identify those areas that need additional work. During a therapy session we often identify areas of your body that are hot, hard, stiff or tender. These are places your body needs site-specific work. Sometimes a soft tissue restriction has been there so long, or is so hard, it needs repeated treatment to loosen up and finally let go. The work you do at home between your MFR sessions become part of our “repeated treatment” and will help your healing progress.
I have found these tools to be helpful when I do my own self-treatment. I vary my self-care between these tools, combining them with suggestions from the books below and from my observations of my body’s needs during a yoga session or during some daily activity. I direct my self-treatment to the site of my body that is giving me information in the form of pain, tension or restricted movement.
To achieve the best results with your self-treatment I suggest you hold your stretches and sustained gentle pressure for at least 5 minutes to allow the soft tissue of your body to stretch out and let go. Soft tissue requires more than 2 minutes of consistent, sustained, gentle stretch or pressure before it begins to soften, rehydrate, unwind and lengthen. As the tissue begins to release you may feel your tissue relaxing and stretching out. Allow this process to continue as long as something is happening in that area. This may reveal a new area of tension or discomfort. It is just your body showing you where to work next. Follow your body’s information trail by treating each spot or area as you become aware of them. You are changing your body with each pain or area you release. If at anytime something does not feel right, please stop and check in with yourself.
I hope you will find doing self-treatment helps you feel deeper into your body and assists you to achieve improved comfort and flexibility. For some of the tools I have included a YouTube video by an Expert MFR therapist demonstrating suggestions for use of the tool following John F. Barnes Myofascial Release principles.
The suggestions for use of these tools are not meant to replace instructions and treatment given by your Myofascial Release therapist. They are presented here to empower you to be involved with of your therapy and to encourage you to invest your time and energy in your healing process. If you feel that you have further questions or concerns beyond these suggestions, please contact me by email at Teresadmillerpt@gmail.com or phone at 402-676-1702.
Myofascial Release therapy is most effective when we are present in our bodies and able to focus on what we are feeling. When we are stressed or tense we have a limited ability to fully focus, concentrate and soften into the sensations inside our body. I recommend doing Diaphragmatic breathing before doing MFR stretches to quiet your mind and center in your body.
Diaphragmatic breathing can be done lying down or sitting relaxed in a comfortable and supported position. If you are lying down, place a pillow under your head and neck and/or knees or where ever you need support to be most comfortable. Place one hand on your upper chest and the other hand on your mid abdomen. Breath in slowly to a count of 4 then let your breath out slowly to a count of 4. (Breath in and out to a longer count as you are comfortably able.) Notice your hands. The hand on your abdomen should rise with inhalation and lower with exhalation. The hand on your upper chest should rise slightly with inhalation and return to its resting position with exhalation. The distension of your abdomen during inhalation of Diaphragmatic breathing occurs with the contraction of the Diaphragm flattening and moving downward. During exhalation the Diaphragm relaxes back to it’s resting position.
One breath is a 4 count (or more if you are able) breath in and an equal number count breath out, feeling your abdomen hand rise and fall with each inhalation and exhalation. Repeat the breath cycle 10 times breathing easily and gently. Feel the air entering your body, and softly leaving your body. The stillness and quietness of the process will help you center your mind and be in your body.
Balls are very effective for putting gentle controlled pressure into tight, hard or sore areas of soft tissue restrictions. Gentle pressure into a tight muscle will help the muscle relax and soften. Balls can be used as a massage tool by placing it between your body and the floor, bed or back of a chair or a wall. Roll back and forth on the ball until you find a sore, hard or tight spot. Then settle down onto the ball and allow your body to relax into the pressure until the spot softens and the pain eases. A specific ball is not required for this self-treatment, although I have found a firm 4-inch sized ball to be very effective for most body areas. Pick a ball that works for the spot on your body you are working on. Tennis balls, toy balls, hand and golf balls all work depending on how deep you wish to work and how much pressure you can tolerate on that spot.
Yellow Ball self treatment exercise
A Theracane is a very handy tool to reach painful areas on the top of the shoulders, neck, legs and low back. You can apply gentle pressure with the hook end on the tight, hard or sore area to release myofascial trigger points and restricted tissue and perform a self-massage.
Hold the Theracane with your hands along the long straight end and the curved end in the area you are treating. Find the area of pain, discomfort or tension and then press gently into that spot, allowing the weight of your hands and arms to provide the therapeutic level of pressure needed for the release. Wait here, with the There Cane directly on the skin, for 3-5 minutes for the tissue to release and relax. Be careful, as it's easy to force and work too hard. You want to be able to soften into the pressure.
You can find a Theracane at Relax The Back stores and online through a Google search or on Amazon.com.
The CranioCradle is a soft and easy to use self-treatment, myofascial release therapy tool that relieves stress, tension, and pain. It is used by placing in under your head at the top of your neck. There it can help your whole body let go, while providing people with headaches, migraines, tension, neck and shoulder pain a simple and effective way to position their head and neck which will help relieve their symptoms. The CranioCradle can be used on your back to mobilize your spine and release trigger points. It can also be used on your sacrum (the bony triangle shaped bone in the back of your pelvic) to provide gentle traction for your low back.
Instructions that come with your CranioCradle, and videos on the CranioCradle website show how to use the Craniocradle. You can purchase CranioCradles from www.craniocradle.com and #1-888-380-6748.
The Sacro Wedgy® is a device that releases the soft tissue around the sacrum (the triangle shaped bone at the back of your pelvis) and uses gravity help relax, align and re-balance the pelvis. Find a space on the floor or other flat surface that offers solid support. Lie on your side and place the Sacro Wedgy under your sacrum. Roll onto your back with the Sacro Wedgy in place and place a towel roll in the crook of your neck to support your neck and back. Lie with your legs straight or bent over a pillow for support. Then allow your body to relax. It is recommended that you start off for no more than 5 minutes but you can work up to 20 minutes at a time. When finished gently roll to your side to get off the Sacro Wedgy. As always listen to your body and its messages. Only use the Sacro Wedgy if it feels right for you.
You can purchase a Sacro Wedgy from www.sacrowedgy.com and 1-800-737-9295. On the Sacro Wedgy website there are helpful instructions and instructional videos demonstrating how to use this tool.
Foam Rollers can be used for positioning to achieve a stretch position, used as a massage tool and can be used for applying the steady, sustained pressure needed for hard, stiff and painful areas of the body. They are best used on the floor, which provided a firm surface to work on.
Foam rollers are fairly firm and resistive. If you are attempting a stretch or exercise position with a roller and experiencing a lot of pain, you may need to work on another area of your body first, or use a different tool in that spot. You must be able to tolerate the pressure of the roller in your body and be able to relax your body down on the roller as you allow the pressure to soften your tissue.
One way to use a roller is to lie on it on your back with the roller running along your spine. You may choose to keep your knees bent to support your pelvis and help balance you on the roller. Move your arms out to the side with your palms up and allow your chest to relax and open up.
Another body part often treated with a foam roller is the Iliotibial band (IT band) along the outside of your thigh. Treat this area by laying the roller on the floor. Then position your body on your side with the roller between the floor and your thigh. Roll up and down your thigh until you find a tender or hard spot. Then stay in that position maintaining the pressure on the painful spot. Like all MFR stretches try to stay in that position for up to 5 minutes or more to allow the tissue to release and lengthen.
Rollers are often seen as a 4-inch or a 6-inch wide roller. You can find one on the Internet with a Google search or on Amazon.com. You may also be able to use one at your local gym or fitness club.
Wedges are used to help rebalance the alignment of pelvis and boney framework. Problems with Sacroiliac pain, Sciatica, Pelvic Pain, Low Back pain and muscle spasms in the low back and buttock can be contributed to by a mal-alignment of the pelvis. These reoccurring problems can be effectively treated and resolved with the use of positioning wedges during self-treatment.
During treatment your Myofascial Release therapist will check the alignment of your pelvis and work with you to ensure your pelvis is balanced. This is important, as the pelvis is the base of support for your trunk, neck and head. The pelvis must be balanced for all the rest above it to work correctly and heal. Our bones are pulled out of alignment by the tension produced by fascial restrictions. Wedges such as these can be used, as directed by your MFR therapist, to reposition your pelvis and allow the soft tissue surrounding your pelvis to lengthen and resume a neutral posture.
If your MFR therapist suggests the use of wedges for treating your pelvic and low back problems you can purchase a pair of the wedges pictured above at: (Email)Boyd Woodworks or call 1-636-274-2101. Other wedge types are available on the Internet. Your therapist can also show you how to use a pair of tennis shoes or hand towels to substitute for a pair of purchased wedges.
I have found the following Myofascial Release books to be helpful in doing my self-treatment. Expert level John F. Barnes Myofascial Release therapists authored these books so the instructions and stretches in the books are consistent with the John F. Barnes Myofascial Release treatment approach. In these books you will find very helpful suggestions for ways to treat the tight, stiff and painful areas of your body. The treatment suggestions in these books can be done without any tools, or you can add the use of one of the above tools to get to those places you might not otherwise be able to stretch into or reach for the needed therapeutic pressure.
←Comprehensive Myofascial Self Treatment Book Your Path to Authentic Healing and Pain Relief by Joyce Karnis Patterson, PT can be purchased here.
Myofascial Stretching A Guide to Self-Treatment by Jill Stedronsky and Brenda Pardy can be purchased here.→
Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is meant for educational purposes only. It is not to be used in place of standard medical, nutritional or general health advice by a licensed health professional or Myofascial Release therapist. The use or misuse of this information is the sole responsibility of the user. The user hereby shall hold harmless Teresa D. Miller, PT of all lawsuits and legal actions that may be taken against her or her business.