Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Self-treat your body with techniques similar to Graston and ASTYM

I have met all sorts of therapies in my quest to recover my stride. I have found out that a lot of my muscle type problems result from far deeper problems in hip/pelvis/si joint area and my own peculiar body: femoral anteversion, mild dysplasia, and tibial torsion (all strangely on the left side of my body). Because these problems throw my body into its own method or sorting out a running stride added together with years and years of running, I have dealt with all sorts of tight muscles due to the compensations my body created..

I became a interested in all sorts of foam rollers, massage balls, and other techniques to try to get my body back out of pain, tightness, imbalances and distortions. I have more rollers and other devices than many PT offices that I have been in. I think a few corners and closets in my house protect the huddled masses of all sorts of these implements and tools.

I had a few PT sessions with therapists who performed Graston or ASTYM therapy. The real basics are that they use speciallly made tools to scrape over your muscle tissue, tendons, or ligaments to address scar tissue and fascial restrictions. I have had it on my lower legs and feet as well as the hip area and back of the knee. The therapist rubs over the tissue. By the end of a treatment, you can be a bit sore and the tissue can be red and inflamed, but it does loosen things up quite effectively. One major reservation I have with these sessions is that it is usually limited to just one spot on your body. I would think that they would look over your whole body to find tightness and try to resolve them like a massage therapist would.

I often wondered if this was a treatment you could do at home (like foam rolling). Late last fall, I ordered a product called the Mobility Star to try it out. I would caution against doing anything close to attempting what a trained therapist does, but I was curious about working on my own muscles. The Mobility Star is similar in some ways to the professional tools, but I do think the corners and edge surfaces are much rounder and more gentler on your body tissues. When researching before trying this out, I also found this inexpensive Kindle book, An Introduction to Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization, which gives some excellent guidelines and directions if you want to try self-treatments. It goes over what to do for various muscles and I would consider it a must-have book if you are so inclined to try this.

In fairness, I have not really gotten deep into this as I am in a do-no-harm phase of just trying to keep my body pain-free. I do keep the Mobility Star handy for when a muscle feels tight. I find it much easier to use than a roller or a massage ball on tight muscles around my legs (like a strong thumb), particularly around my shins. It can get directly into any tight tissue that bothers me and it gives much better leverage. When I am slightly bothered by something that is tight, I just pull it out, work on the muscle for a few minutes, and usually I feel much better. I haven't used it much as the book suggests as a way to do ASTYM, but when I have, I do it very lightly as the book suggests. It is not about how deep you can go. One interesting thing to note is that you learn to feel the vibration of you tissues as the tool helps you find what needs to be treated.

I have also found similar and cheaper versions of this tool, like the EDGEility Tool, the Myofascial Releaser - MICRO Tool for IASTM, as well as Gua Sha Scraping Massage Tools . You can also find more expensive (and probably more precise tools).

UPDATE: Taking a cue from my PT, I have been using the ENDIGLOW  Medical-Grade Stainless Steel IASTM Soft Tissue Mobilization Tool (MT004) to work on my larger muscles: quads, lower back, and glutes recently and I use it specifically for my tight adductors. I use it very lightly over the muscles particularly over spots where I can feel vibrations. It is a great tool. I also started using Freeup Massage Cream. It works great and there is no smell or greasiness when done. It allows for a smooth glide using my tools.

Here is an introduction to the Mobility Star:

This video shows some techniques for using the Mobility Star:

Here are some more tips and techniques:

Good luck, if you try doing this. I think that someday, these or similar tools will replace the foam rollers and massage type balls that have become very popular today. 

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