Here are some things to look for when trying to discover tissue that requires attention:
Pain – That goes as defined as an unpleasant sensation accompanied by the tendency to withdraw and a reactive regional tension. Tensions can sometimes express themselves as trigger points in your body. Trigger points are defined as an area of dysfunction refers sensation to another area of the body. This often happens in predictable patterns, but not always. Two doctors studied this Drs. Janet Travell and David Simons were the first to map these patterns with accuracy in their now familiar manual Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction. Many trigger point therapies will try to shut down these signals with sustained pressure to the target areas, which can offer a fast relief from the pain. This practice can be valuable but is by no means the complete picture. It’s almost like cutting the wire to the faulty check engine light. The annoying sound you hear while driving is just about gone, but the engine problem is still happening.
The inability of skin called the epidermis slides over to the subcutaneous tissues. Not only can this cause a disruption of long-term processing of chemicals in the area, but restriction like this could contribute significantly to inefficient gross movement patterns and cause joints to move off of the axis and contractile tissues to work much harder to attain the ranges of motion crucial to sports. Many times this could lead to inflammatory responses in tissues that are over stressed, and if they are left unchecked they can result in excessive calcium and fat deposits.
Dense areas of tissue – These may prevent full expression of a range of motion and keep nearby tissues from sliding past one another. When dysfunctional these areas are often gristly, hard, and do not normally move well. But just because a zone has dense tissue does not mean it’s dysfunctional. Squat often? Guess what? Your IT bands will be thick and stiff from transmitting force from your hips into the ground. Are you an athlete who has bigger hips living next to your spine? Yeah, that’s normally from doing work, and it doesn’t mean you’re messed up.
Where You should Start
Beyond Treating Trigger Points
If your muscle’s primary and secondary actions aren’t being actively trained but are still pulled into the motion being executed, inefficiency and lack of performance in these movements are the least of your problems. A messy pattern that we have all tried to retrain with our clients is the deep squat. When the lateral chain of the lower body is tight and bound to the surrounding tissues, hefty compensations occur, such as knees caving in. These “sticky” muscles cause you to sometimes work against yourself and create some dysfunctions, which can lead to a host of issues in the short and long term.
Learning to identify specific musculature, while also differentiating overlying and underlying structures takes time and practice. These might be skills that can’t be developed overnight. You need continuous training to be as efficient as possible. With the necessity of a high frequency of treatment, your skills will become enhanced every single day, and in many cases, it’ll ultimately be better than going to a practitioner.
No matter how good the practitioner, or how magical they will tell you their hands are, they can’t feel what you feel. Your sensory experience is priceless in getting the most out of your soft tissue treatments, and more specificity means more streamlined gains. You think your foam roller is capable of that? Try a Stick Roller instead. They are commonly used as a trigger point therapy.
Take Back Your Tissues
Lucky for us as self-sufficient athletes, we don’t have to broaden our soft tissue skill set to meet the ever-growing demand of various clients. We have our bodies to take care of, and that alone will take time and effort to explore fully. Find some of the little modifications to these foundational concepts that enhance your treatments. This is merely a starting point for you to navigate your way through the shoulder and beyond. Start with these keys to standard self-soft tissue treatments:
Spend some time and palpate your tissues to differentiate structures from one another. It won’t hurt to break out some anatomy literature and study where you want to focus your attention.
Your goal is to generate a “hurts good” feeling in the tissues being treated. If you’ve ever been treated by a professional, you’ll recognize the real sense. Everyone’s a bit different but shoot for a subjective pain scale rating of at least a 6-8/10.
If you feel any sharp or radiating pain, different from what the trigger points in soft tissue feel like, discontinue your pressure. You’re most likely on a nerve or vascular vessel. Move off that point and continue your treatment next to such nerve. Many of your nerves can become sticky, just as soft tissues do. Treat the tissue, not the nerve.
The more tension you create, the less force you’ll need to exert. Think of twist, not push, with your hand placements.