I love a professional massage as much (actually, probably more) than the next girl, and when I make my first million dollars, I’ll immediately schedule weekly massages. Until then, I’ve got to be creative about relieving the pain of tight, crunchy, misused muscles. A few minutes with some items most of you likely have around the house, and you’ll be surprised at how much better you feel–for free!
First off, the rolling pin.
I got the idea of using my rolling pin to ease hip and quad pain from a device I saw in a fitness magazine. (You thought my white, doughy legs were the inspiration, didn’t you?) It looked surprisingly like a rolling pin, yet cost many times more. I figured I’d give my own rolling pin a try before springing for the costlier version, and it worked so well I just kept using it.
If you’ve ever used a foam roller for muscle pain, you’ll understand the concept of the rolling pin. It works in a similar fashion, using varying amounts of pressure to break up restricted fascia (connective tissue), and restore blood flow. I’ve found the rolling pin’s smaller size, and the increased control you get from the pin handles is much better for rolling out the smaller areas around the hip crease and quad muscles. The rolling pin seems particularly effective on the muscle attachments surrounding the knee.
Go ahead, give it a try. It’s easy to do while you are sitting on the couch watching the Food Channel, or during a quick break at your desk chair. Just remember, don’t ever roll directly over the joint–it hurts. Stick to the meatier, soft tissue areas and the muscle attachments leading into the joint.
Next, the tennis ball.
Yes, I am thiiissss close to losing that tennis ball. It’s actually carefully lodged in the area where my hamstrings attach to my ischial tuberosity. Check it out:
Things can get really painful and tight in that area, resulting in pain in the glutes or pain radiating down the leg. And while a foam roller can help to some extent, the tennis ball really zeros in on that specific attachment. To use it, sit on carpeted floor (or some other surface with some traction; hardwood floors are too slippery) with the tennis ball right in the spot where your leg turns into your butt. Nice, right? Then, just kind of roll around. We’re all adults here, so I think we can handle this in a mature fashion.
Oh, and one last spot where the tennis ball works really well: in between your shoulder blades. You know how you get that pinching pain when you’ve been on your computer or driving your car too long? Just stand against a wall with the tennis ball wedged in the muscle tissue between your spine and your scapula, and use the wall as pressure to roll the ball around. I actually carry a tennis ball in my car so when I’m stopped at a light I can pop it between my shoulder blade and the driver’s seat. I’m sure I look like a weirdo, squirming around in my seat, but this little trick really helps relieve muscle tightness. And at least I’m not picking my nose, right?
Remember, don’t roll directly over your spine.
Finally, the last tool in my pain fighting arsenal is the water bottle.
I don’t usually do this trick myself, but I often recommend it to people with foot pain, particularly pain resulting from plantar fascitis. It’s pretty simple, actually. Just put a water bottle in the freezer until it is solid. Then, take it out, put your (socked) foot on top and roll. It’s the perfect size for the arch of your foot, you can vary pressure, and the ice helps ease inflammation. Trust me, it will feel awesome. Like a mini foot massage. You will wonder why you didn’t think of this before.
All of these lovely photos were taken by Mike after I got back from a run last night (yes, I did run most of the way!). Unfortunately, I only demonstrated these techniques for the photos instead of actually doing them. I’m a little sore today. So now, I’m off to sit on a tennis ball. Really.
You should try it too.