|Posted by Joshua Bledsoe on February 13, 2012 at 2:05 PM|
Manual Therapy is a very broad umbrella that includes myriad modalities. You have probably heard of a number of these modalities, such as massage therapy, chiropractic, joint manipulation, and yoga. A quick Google search will yeild an incredible amount of information on the topic, but personally I find the most relief from massage, yoga and self-myofascial release.
*You'll notice I'm not citing sources. I just don't have time for this, and most of this information comes from my head. I'm sitting here with my laptop enjoying a cup of coffee, not sitting around a stack of books. If you really need some backstory, I'd be happy to provide you with suggested reading materials.
Massage is, again, a large umbrella. There are numerous massage modalities, but the most common are swedish and deep tissue.
Swedish is the style of massage with which most are familiar. Swedish massage is comprised of 5 basic strokes and the purpose is to promote relaxation and circulation. If you've never had a massage, I'd suggest this kind of massage. Let the therapist know you've never had a massage, but that you'd like to find out what areas of your body need special attention. Later you can explore....
Deep tissue massage serves as a therapy for those muscles which are located beneath the outermost muscle layer. For example, most are familiar with the pectoralis major which is the fan shaped muscle on the outer chest which connects to the humerus. We colloquially know this muscle as the "pecs" but underneath this muscle is the pectoralis minor. Regardless, deep tissue is an excellent modality for those who experience chronic muscle pain. Deep tissue can be painful and uncomfortable if you are not used to recieving a massage. The therapist will work to release adhesions (knots).
I could write about massage for days, but massage serves multiple purposes for me, the greatest of which is to teach me to identify the origin of my pain. Trigger points have referral areas. For example, there is a point in the trapezius muscle which refers to the head. So, when you have a headache, it might serve you well to know an Advil will cure you in the short-term, but won't release an adhesion in your trapezius muscle.
I don't like to use the term "Yoga" to talk about stretching. Yoga practitioners would be very upset to know I considered their art merely stretching, because it is much more than that. Many traditional stretches overlap with popular poses. Chicken or the egg?
As a musician, I stretch often. I do full-body routines on a daily basis to keep general muscle tightness as a minimum, and stretch my upper back, shoulders and pecs regularly throughout the day to keep the muscles involved in my trombone playing free of tension.
Self Myofascial Release (SMR)
Most people know SMR as "foam-rolling" and I'm only going to guide you to this website. This is an excellent article to get you started foam rolling. SMR is a life saver. You can buy foam-rollers at WalMart and Target now, you won't regret it. Hello to less back pain, better sleep, greater range of motion, faster recovery times, improved mood and less general muscle soreness.
In short, manual therapies you can do yourself can help prevent injury as well as treat existing injury. Remember, pain isn't always your friend when you're training. With SMR it's pretty common to experience some discomfort, especially if you're overweight. Stretching isn't about pain, and it's not about touching your toes. Stretching should be mentally theraputic as well as relaxing. The purpose is to stretch your muscles, not hurt yourself.