In the spirit of Play Tennis Day on Feb 23rd, we are using tennis balls to get after trigger points. What exactly are trigger points? Do you ever find spots that when released seem to get the entire muscle to settle down? That is what we are talking about here. Some people complain of “crunchy” muscles and getting those “crunchy” spots to break apart is another way of describing trigger points. They can be in the muscle, the fascia, or both. Since they are “points”, not whole muscles, it works best if you have a smaller thing- in this case the tennis balls- to loosen them up.
Notice that the goal is to get your hips higher than your shoulders in order to put downward pressure on the upper back. Have you noticed that if you lie flat, you can’t get the downward pressure on the upper back in particular? This is why you want something to wedge under your hips. Try a yoga block, use your roller, a firm pillow, or a roll of paper towels. Additionally, you don’t have to get on the floor or on your yoga mat; try the couch or a bed instead. Try holding for 90 seconds to release and start to reset the targeted area.
So you will need tennis balls (if you don’t have any you can get some here) and if you feel so good once we finish releasing the trigger points you are ready to get out and play some tennis, here is a well researched resource for the other key part of the game: the racquet.
Meet my sweet client Sara. She personally tested these trigger point release positions and liked how they felt. She is a great sport about doing whatever crazy thing I throw her way…so off we go:
Trigger point spot #1: neck and upper back
Place the two tennis balls just to the side of your neck just below the top of your shoulder. Put the block under your hips. Dig around to find the tight spots. When your breath catches in a really tight spot, remember to exhale! Hang out there for 90 seconds and try to breathe into the spot- visualize it melting like butter. Ghee. Vegan cheese. One of those things. 🙂
As you settle into this upper shoulder/neck release, see about changing your arm position and extend your arm to the side like Sara is here.
Trigger point spot #2: shoulder blades and mid thoracic spine
Now you are going to take the tennis balls and place them in the space in between your spine and shoulder blade. Hips again on the block. Sara lifted her arm overhead here just to demo the ball placement.
Again, start with your arm at your side and then extend your arm out to the side.
Trigger point spot #3:
If you know your anatomy, you are targeting T12, or the 12th thoracic vertebrae. This is just below the bottom edge of the ribcage. Place the tennis balls there, hips on the block or pillow, and bring your bent knees toward your chest. Breathe.
Once you have the basic position accomplished, try taking your bent knees and rolling them to the side like Sara is doing here. Take another deep diaphragmatic breath!
Trigger point spot #4:
The meaty hip muscles– the three layers of glutes!
Roll on your side and slide the tennis ball into the meaty part of the hip. Sara demos the start position here.
Your next step is to gently roll your hip back onto the ball. Look at Sara’s face. Enough said. 🙂
How does that feel, now that you are done? I drive my car with two tennis balls in a sock in my mid-back almost all of the time, so I’m used to digging into my muscles this way. How about you?