How do you approach strength training after injuries?
The challenge is always to push yourself, but not too hard. Listen to your body, and be patient. My approach to resistance training has shifted and evolved over the years. When I was young, limber, and lean I lifted to get big and strong. The fact that it was also good for my state of mind, I considered a side-benefit. I got strong, but I also made mistakes. I definitely didn't do enough stretching or soft tissue work. I bit off more than I could chew on a few occasions, accumulating tears and strains along the way. It's good to push the limits, but sometimes we learn our limits only after we've pushed too far.
Now that I have been through the meat grinder a few times, my training is more focused on maintaining strength, athleticism, and resilience. It seems wiser to spend more time improving alignment, developing resilience and improving skills, and to spend less time developing pure power. I've learned to take my time with core warmups and dynamic stretches before any heavy lifting. To anyone who has come back after an injury, I suggest fewer reps with more attention paid to fine-tuning your form. And, of course, spend plenty of time on stretching and soft-tissue therapy. Lifting can hurt you or it can heal you. Prepare yourself properly, and try to approach it with more mindfulness and less ego.
Is the Ballpoint appropriate for TMJ pain?
Absolutely. The muscles that surround the temporal mandibular joint all have the tendency to develop major trigger points. Chewing too much on one side, grinding your teeth at night, or clenching the jaw when stressed can all lead to chronic jaw pain and headaches. Use your Ballpoint Muscle Roller to locate and treat the trigger points of your masseter, buccinator and temporalis muscles, and try to identify and remedy the repetitive stresses that contribute to your TMJ pain.
Trigger point therapy is the practice of relieving pain and restoring strength and range of motion by identifying and releasing the rigid and compressed portions of muscles and connective tissue. Trigger points will not release through stretching alone, but require direct pressure and manipulation. Much of what we consider to be normal age-related pain, stiffness and even shrinking is actually an accumulation of strains, injuries, and misalignments, and is quite reversible with the help of trigger point therapy.
Trigger points can be tiny or larger than a dime, and can exist anywhere within a muscle. They often do not hurt, but instead refer pain and rigidity to the adjacent joint where the affected muscle inserts. For example, shoulder pain is often the result of trigger points several inches away, in the muscles of the rotator cuff, chest, back, and neck. Left untreated, trigger points can lead to tendonitis and soft tissue injuries. Everyone gets trigger points. Using your Ballpoint Muscle Roller will help you reverse their affects.
How hard should I push my muscle roller into a trigger point?
Generally, you'll know how deep to work on your own body. That's the major benefit of working on yourself. You know your own pain threshold so you can work as deeply as possible without tensing up. But be patient and give your muscles a chance to relax and open as you sink deeper and deeper.
If you are frustrated and impatient with a trigger point, you can do more harm than good. The best massage therapists have insight and skills, but they also know how to work with good intentions. They know how to be relaxed, yet extremely focused. They are patient. First, focus your intention toward healing and alignment, then go to work.
When should I see my doctor about a soft-tissue injury?
It is not always obvious whether or not a trauma or repetitive stress has seriously injured you or just caused you a good deal of pain. If you aren't sure whether or not an injury is serious, best to err on the side of caution. Go to the doctor. If you determine that your pain is manageable (due to muscular trigger points and myofascial adhesions, and not due to a sprain or worse) you can get help from a good therapy specialist and you can also speed your recovery by strengthening, stretching and using muscle rollers. Your condition should improve. If it does not improve, or if it gets worse, seek medical treatment and/or diagnostic imaging.
How can I relieve sciatic nerve pain?
As you can see, the sciatic nerve has three separate origins at the lowest lumbar vertebrae and the sacrum. We know that this area becomes compressed as a result of
prolonged sitting. As a result, the intervertebral disks begin to bulge and press against the nerve, causing pain to radiate downward. If you sit a lot, take frequent breaks to get up and stretch. Traction and decompressive stretches can help create space as well. And try to walk tall, rather than slouching, in order to maintain a strong core and healthy lumbar curve.
The other relevant element to treating the sciatic nerve is the piriformis muscle. If you walk with your feet pointed out, even slightly, then your piriformis muscle is tight. The sciatic nerve travels deep to the piriformis, so a tight piriformis will cause sciatic nerve impingement. If you drive a lot, the right piriformis is likely to get tight because using the gas pedal causes an external rotation of the hip. Stretch the piriformis, as shown, and use your Shredder directly on the piriformis. It's a deep muscle so you have to push hard into the glutes midway between the tailbone and the hip joint. Find the trigger points and roll the Shredder in small circles to relieve the pressure on the sciatic nerve. Cat and cow stretches will also help.
What can I do for migraine headaches?
Improve your posture by strengthening the core and stretching/strengthening the neck and upper back. Practice squeezing the shoulder blades together to bring your shoulders back into alignment. Use the ballpoint muscle roller on the trigger points of the trapezius, scalenes, and sternocleidomastoid muscles. Notice how the muscles of the front and side of the neck attach to the base of the skull behind the ear. Trigger points in those muscles create tension at the attachment points, which become headaches. Releasing the tension in the neck and shoulders will help relieve headaches and prevent migraines.
Can it be used to treat plantar fasciitis?
Yes. The muscles and connective tissue that comprise the arch of the foot are highly treatable. You can use your Ballpoint Muscle Roller to trace along the bottom of your foot, on the heel, and up and down either side of the achilles tendon. You'll know when you find a spot that needs attention because those foot trigger points hurt like the dickens. Also, do plenty of calf stretches, and work on your toe flexibility and dexterity. Lastly, untuck the sheets at the foot of your bed. Give your feet some room to wiggle, man!