Too often we find ourselves sore, tight and in pain from sitting in the same position for too long or from simply not moving our muscles often enough. A quick fix is not the ultimate problem solver, but it can be a great temporary solution until you can see a professional. Below, we listed multiple relatively cheap and simple products that can help ease pain. Because they are standard products, you might even own some of them already.
Tennis balls are ideal, but it does not necessarily have to be one. Any ball that is a similar size as a tennis ball will do, such as a handball. The great thing about a tennis ball is that it can temporarily take the place of a masseuse by offering deep pressure in those tricky knotted areas. Lay on your back and simply place the tennis ball underneath you, wherever you feel pain. You might have to roll around on the ball until you find the spot. It will be painful, and if it is too much pain, try using a softer ball. Breathing through the pain is also very important. A tennis ball can be used to apply pressure to any other areas on your body, such as your feet or hamstrings.
Another great use for a tennis ball is relieving tense neck muscles. If your job requires you to sit at a desk for extended periods of time in front of a computer, chances are you have developed a slouched posture, causing tension in your neck. Grab two tennis balls and a large sock or stocking. Put the tennis balls into the sock and tie it so they do not slip. Lay down on your back and rest the balls at the base of the skull where your neck and skull met. The purpose of this is to relax your shoulder muscles and stretch the back of your neck.
A foam roller is a great way to self-massage and release tension in your muscles. It can be used on your calves, hamstrings, quads, gluts, and back. See our blog post on how to properly roll out your muscles. If you are looking to purchase one, we sell them here at James Fowler Physical Therapy.
Stretch Strap/Jump Rope
In most cases, if you are experiencing pain in your lower back, feet, or calves are in pain, it is due to the tightness in your hamstrings and hips. A stretch strap or jump rope can be used to help stretch out the muscles and reduce pain. Grab the strap and lay on your back. Place your left leg straight on the ground and your right leg in the air. Place the strap around your right foot and pull back. You want to make sure your right leg is straight so you can feel a proper stretch. If this is too much for you, either don’t pull your leg back as far, or slightly bend the left leg. Hold that side for 30 seconds, while taking deep breaths. During each exhale, slowly pull your leg an inch further. Switch legs and repeat the same action on the other side.
In some instances, your body just needs to be supported and relaxed. In yoga classes, some instructors have you place two yoga blocks on either side of your mat. They are there if you ever can’t do a pose without support. Having the support is always important, because you never want to make your body do more than it can handle. In this case, a yoga block can be used to relax your muscles, or offer the lower back support to get a proper stretch.
The first pose, a supported child’s pose, releases tension in your back, hips and maybe even your knees. While sitting on your heels, place one yoga block, on the medium height, in-between your thighs. Bend over into child’s pose, but place the second yoga block on the shortest side and put in under your head for support. If you need more support, adjust the height of the yoga block to whichever feels most comfortable.While you lay in this position, take slow deep breaths.
Your yoga block can also be used as support for tricky positions. If your lower back tends to be tight, a supported arch is a great way to stretch out the muscles. Lay on your back with your knees up. Take your yoga block and place it under your sacrum. You can start on the shortest height and work your way up to the tallest point. Make sure the pressure is on your shoulders and not your neck. After a minute, remove the block and do a counter stretch by pulling your knees into your chest.
Shoe inserts are a long-term solution, and are not cheap, but will offer the best fix to sore feet, knees, hips, and lower back. At James Fowler Physical Therapy, we offer custom orthotics designed and built by Tamir Kfir. When scheduling a fitting with us, we analyze your gait, posture, foot strike, medical history, and create 3D image of both feet to understand where on your foot you place the most pressure. Your custom orthotics will help reduce pain by creating better alignment and helping balance and posture. Read more about orthotics here.
We hope these stretches and products have influenced you to get on the floor and get stretching! Remember, it is always encouraged to get the opinion of a professional if pain continues or worsens.
Photos are provided by Physiotec.org and yogajournal.com