Thursday, September 16, 2021

It's All Connected: How I Determine Where to Roll for Muscle Release


The most important thing I retained during my stint with my chiropractor was "it's all connected."  I would tell him where I had pain (ie- in my foot) and he would do myofascial release either in my shin or my calf depending on where the pain was.  I would ask questions about why he was doing it where he was and he would gleefully give me an explanation of what muscles connected where.  Like if you dig into certain parts of your calf muscles, you could feel a tingle in the arch of your foot because it's all connected.  Not only was I interested in learning about what muscles attached where and I would ask because it was apparent from his excitement that no one else cared but ultimately, I'm cheap.  Even with coverage, I had to pay $30 a pop for each visit and if he wasn't going to use a laser or something I didn't have access to, I was going to learn on my own how to take care of my screwed up leg muscles.  Ultimately, it ended up preparing me for the pandemic when going in to see him wasn't going to happen.  

Let me preface this by saying I am not a doctor.  Nothing in this article should be construed as medical advice and should you choose to do any of these things, you do so at your own risk.  Consult your doctor before trying any of these techniques on your own.

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One time, I had horrible tugging pain on the tips of my toes.  No amount of rolling with The Stick in the muscles above my ankle would relieve it despite it being very tender and obviously a problem.  When I went to him, he found a small knot about 3" below my knee on the extensor digitorum longus muscle.


You can see how that muscle attaches close to the knee and runs all the way down into the four smaller toes.  While technically I wasn't wrong rolling at the ankle, I was rolling the smaller muscle not realizing the bigger muscle and the one doing a majority of the work was above it.  Where the chunkier part of the muscle goes into the smaller part of the muscle is often where I will get a knot that limits range of motion. Now that I knew that, I went home and started looking some stuff up.

I love to go to anatomy websites so I can learn which muscles are connected to each other so that I can more effectively relieve my own pain.  Obviously, there are plenty of YouTube videos and such you can look up but for me, I've always retained more when I can see more detail.  I love websites like Teach Me Anatomy and my absolute favorite is Innerbody Research because you can click on the muscle and it'll show you where it is and what it attaches to.  

I tend to have IT band syndrome quite a bit where after some more strenuous (to my muscles) workouts, I have extreme tightness on the outside of my thigh connecting from my hip to my knee.  This is the Iliotibial Tract.  So a click on Innerbody shows me that area.  In my estimation, I would think that rolling the only muscle in the tract up top by the hip with the Stick or a foam roller would release any tension in that area.  The rest of it is all connective tissue so my method would be to then use my Graston tool to smooth out any scar tissue that is bunging things up in there.  That is a two pronged approach I wouldn't have thought of had I not looked at that page.  Instead, I would spend time after a workout just foam rolling from knee to hip and wondering why it was still tight.  When I did have to see my chiro for something unrelated, I ran this theory past him and he smiled and confirmed I was on the right track and said the only thing was I needed to do it daily if I wanted to keep things pliable.  He seemed impressed I even bothered to look that stuff up and I felt better knowing that I had the tools to figure things out for myself.  

Rolling truly is one of the most overlooked parts of body maintenance.  It doesn't matter if you workout or not, you really should consider rolling especially if you're sedentary/working from home.  All of that sitting shortens your muscles and doing some foam rolling or using the Stick to help lengthen things is always a good idea if your body can tolerate it.  Again, that is something you need to check with your doctor about so you can determine if it's the right course of action for you.  For me, I like being able to figure these things out for myself and know that I can course correct a muscle or two trying to throw a wrench into life.

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  1. I think you would have made a great chiropractor given how well you retain all the muscle names and their locations/connectedness. All I know is any time I have a muscle related pain you know exactly what to do and I appreciate that!

  2. We discovered, about 20 years ago, that custom shoe inserts made a huge difference all the way up to our necks, alignment, everything connected.


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