Monday Myth Busting – Massage & Mobility

MYTH-BUSTING – Massage and Mobility

As you are all aware, PS Lifestyle : Wellness is all about credible wellness; whatever wellness means to you with the focus on our 5 elements of wellness. It’s about separating fact from fiction, and challenging opinions especially those which appear not to take evidence into account. But still, it’s a minefield with ‘experts’ and ‘influencers’ as well as paid celebrity endorsements. Who do you listen to? Well, that’s entirely up to you. PS is not here to demand you listen only to us; that would be arrogant and there are already so many ‘professionals’ out there doing just that. We’re here to ensure you don’t get sucked into the fad or the cure-all or “do this one thing to change your life” mentality.

It’s still difficult not to get wrapped up in it or side-lined or tempted. So, this blog is about providing clarity about a few common myths that can be disproved through fact and science – today it’s Lynsey’s arena: MOBILITY & MASSAGE.
It is important to have the facts because some of these myths can often lead to increased fear of movement and sometimes, even be the cause of our pain

MYTH 1: I need to use excessive FORCE with a machine, foam roller, tennis ball, or release gun to RELEASE my muscle tissue.

FALSE As research continues to progress,  we know this not to be true. You do not need to exert force to get results! Do not buy into the ‘no pain no gain’ thought process.

When we foam roll, or have a massage, or use equipment such as spiky massage balls we are actually stimulating large diameter nerve receptors within the tissue/fascia/body to RELAX through the nervous system; these receptors respond to touch, pressure, and vibration – all stimuli created by your massage therapist or foam roller etc. There is likely to be some improved glide or slide of fluid between the fascial layers or muscle fibres and, to encourage this to continue, further movement/massage is required which will in turn create new pathways in the brain (via your nervous system) to encourage it to release any tight holding patterns. This explains why foam rolling and massage and tennis balls leave the ‘worked on’ areas feeling so good – not because they’re necessarily releasing ‘knots’ through unpleasantly massive force, but because the pressure and vibration is stimulating receptors in the brain! Massage really is a wondrous neurological therapy and should never be regarded as just a rubbing woo-woo placebo! It is important to remember that mobilising restricted tissue can be uncomfortable but it should not be unbearable.

MYTH 2: The area I have pain is the problem I need treated. i.e. back pain = massage here!

FALSE Pain is typically the signal that is telling you something needs to be addressed and indicates a symptom, but not necessarily the cause of the pain. Ever wondered why your massage appointment is at least an hour long? Massage therapists address other areas of the body such as the hips, upper back, or even the feet, knowing that by working on these additional areas the pain you’re experiencing will likely begin to decrease. We need to assess your whole body as everything is truly connected. And more often than not, massaging the area of pain is, well….. more painful!

MYTH 3: I need to roll out and stretch my IT Band (iliotibial band) to relieve my knee pain.

FALSE Back in the day(!) I was taught how to ‘strip’ the IT Band which is as horrific as it sounds. Now…? Well I haven’t touched anyone’s IT Band for more than 10 years! The IT Band is an incredibly thick layer of fascia. It is thicker than other areas of soft tissue in our body in order to improve efficiency and decrease the amount of energy used to walk in a straight line. It’s a stabiliser – of the knee and the hip, keeping our bodies up and forwards whilst walking, therefore it would serve a negative purpose trying to ‘release’ it.

Some relief may be found by foam rolling or massaging along the side of your quadriceps (thigh) to try to relax any tightness and, as with Myth #1, in doing so on a regular basis may assist in creating new neural pathways via the nervous system to encourage the tissue to relax. And as with Myth #2, a massage therapist will use their skills by working on other soft tissue such as the muscles Tensor Fasciae Lata (TFL) and Gluteus Medius when in comes to anything relating to the IT Band.

MYTH 4: Stretching will decrease my strength and power for performance.

FALSE Stretching with a purpose of increasing mobility will only serve to improve strength and power. Mindless stretching will not; this means holding a static stretch position for 10-30 seconds one time after a workout occasionally and expecting any kind of benefit carried over to the next day. One must also take into account whether they are already very ‘open’ in certain areas of the body as passive stretching (stretching assisted by another person/therapist) may lead to hyper mobility or lessened stability.

SUMMARY: With the help of your therapist, biomechanics expert, or personal trainer, know your body and its restrictions/holding patterns and focus on them. This will allow you to form habits that create consistency over a period of time. Know that a consistent approach is key; random, one-off massages or stretching routines or mobility flows will not create long term, sustained effects. Your brain needs you to work at stimulating the correct receptors that will in turn create a positive neurological effect to relieve you of pain and/or restriction.