By Shona Vertue
Most of you will have heard of the term ‘knot’, and if you’ve ever had a massage you will have experienced the pain associated with knots. Think of your muscles as a collection of tiny ropes. Overuse of these ropes often leads to the development of a knot. These knots, or ‘trigger points’, can restrict movement and blood flow, eventually leading to further pain and dysfunctional movement patterns.
The pain from these trigger points can be both local and also referred (felt elsewhere within the body). If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, ask your friend to squeeze the top of your shoulders (also known as the trapezius); very often the pain will spread right up into the head, even behind the eye. Or put an elbow in your gluteus medius (a true friend will always be willing to get close to your butt like that); you may feel a strong pain in the butt, but it may also refer downwards into the leg, or into your back.
Very often when you have this knot-like tension within the body, you will feel as though you want to stretch it out. However, imagine trying to release a knot from a rope by stretching and pulling at its two ends. It certainly won’t unravel it and, in fact, it could exacerbate it further. This means that you cannot outstretch tension. Even the most flexible person you know will have these trigger points around the body, and they can’t be stretched into freedom. Through a series of weekly self-myofascial and trigger point release sessions (kind of like giving yourself a massage), you will very soon realise how delicious movement is supposed to feel. These practices will improve your capability to move through workouts by having the mobility to sit deeper in your squats, lunges and dead lifts, facilitating better potential for hypertrophy as well as helping you to live in a pain-free body.
This sequence will help you find the knots within the body that are preventing you from moving efficiently. You’re going to press into some of the hard tissue that forms in and around the knots using a mobility ball. It’s going to hit some sore points, but persist – to increase flexibility you need to release tightness. Take a minimum of five breaths for each body part.
Place one foot on a tennis or mobility ball and apply a firm pressure. Roll the foot forwards and backwards over the ball, holding over areas of tension.
Gluteus medius and piriformis
From a seated position, place your feet flat on the floor, hip distance apart. Put your hands on the floor behind you for support. Lift the hips and place the ball at the gluteus medius or the piriformis (as pictured). Put your left foot on top of your right knee. Use your hands and feet to control how much weight you apply on the ball. Roll the ball from the inside to the outside of the glute.
Lie on your back and lift it slightly so that you can place the ball under it (as pictured). Keep one knee bent so that you can take some of the pressure of your body in the leg, rather than putting all of it into the ball. Rather than rolling over the ball, let yourself place pressure on the tight and painful areas, moving the ball with your hand to change pressure points.
Place the ball on the floor and move your back onto it, allowing the ball to sit on the muscle in between the shoulder blades.
Keep the knees bent to maintain stability, and gently rock your body up and down over the ball.
It’s best to find this trigger point from a seated position.
Sit up and use your left arm to reach around to grab hold of your right shoulder. Run your fingertips along the scapula spine (the first bony part that you can feel sticking out of your shoulder blade). The ball will be placed right under this spot. Grab the ball and place it under the scapula spine, slowly coming to lie down on your side, so that your body ends up on top of the ball. Gently rock up and down to find the tension.
Standing close to a wall, place the ball on the levator scapulae (as pictured). Move your body up against the wall and use your legs to press your levator scapulae into the wall. Roll up and down without rolling on the spine.
Standing close to a wall, place the ball on the trapezius (as pictured). Move your body up against the wall (you will need to be slightly side on and use your legs to press your trapezius into the wall). Gently roll along the trapezius.
Place the ball on the chest, close to the shoulder. Place the palms over the ball with your elbows bent out to the side. Inhale here, and as you exhale apply pressure to the ball – moving your
elbows up and down to create gentle movement in the ball.