Module 4 – Self-massage; external and internal
I will teach you some applicable massage techniques for specific areas of your body that you will be able to do on your own. You will be encouraged to buy a few simple massage tools that are not prohibitively expensive.
Introduction to external self massage
I am about to offer you a very distilled peek into the magic, complex, incredibly fascinating world of our bodies and myofascial release through self-massage.
The massages and techniques that will be recommended have the intent to bring balance back to the entire body. By now you are used to my chant: if one part of your body is not functioning well, other parts will also struggle and the domino effect, that ultimately leads to pain or dysfunction, begins to develop.
The magic of massage; How long do I do this?
You do not have to reserve an hour to get it done or to go see a massage therapist or myofascial release professional. I do recommend going to see a professional and enjoy the incredible benefits of skilled hands. I just don’t know many people that have the money or the time to do it as often as needed. Regular self-massage can be a fantastic maintenance program that in turn allows the massage therapist to access even deeper levels for tension release.
Everybody and every body is different and the amount of time required to have an effective massage will vary. I recommend that you start slowly and gently, taking your time to get to know how your your body parts react to the massage, get to know the sensations that can appear, and become aware of each body part’s link to the rest of the team.
An example of this could be that as you massage the Psoas muscle you may feel tension building in your neck, traps or even your low back. Not that it is supposed to happen but if there are sensations that radiate in areas other than the obvious spot that you are treating you can begin to understand the links that are formed in your body. Those links show the source or the possible reasons why you are struggling with discomfort in certain areas.
Let’s keep going with the example of the Psoas being treated and a possible presentation of pain in the Traps ( the part of that muscle that you feel between your bra straps and your neck). It could very well be that you have been struggling with neck and shoulder pain for ages and you have had massage therapy and physiotherapy and the pain never seems to leave for more that a few hours or days after treatment. In this case your Traps or all of the muscles in that area are not the muscles that need the massage and release… it is your Psoas that needs to be released!
Now, let’s focus on the Pelvic Floor. You will be doing external and possibly internal massage of those muscles. You may find that as you are massaging or once you have massaged there, that you now have a reprieve from nagging low back pain or hip pain, shoulder/trap pain and even have your migraines disappear!!
The reverse relationship can also be a potential scenario. You could massage your shoulders or jaw and especially your diaphragm (breathing muscle) and like magic, your pelvic floor pain disappears or your PF begins to have the ability to contract and relax properly and voilà no more peeing yourself when you sneeze, laugh or jump! How awesome is that!
We are going to use techniques that will help
• Release the tensions formed by scar tissue, and adhesions
• Promote muscle relaxation in order to reduce tension and pain
• Promote healing of soft tissue strains or injuries
• Help you improve proprioception and become aware of ‘’blind spots’’ or areas of tension that you did not realize you have
One of the benefits of massage is that you help your body release the ”physiological garbage” that was hanging out in your tissues. You can help your body to excrete those ”toxins” by doing 2 things after your massage:
- Drink an extra glass of water in order to flush things out
- Enjoy a hot bath with Epsom Salts to help your skin, your largest organ, release the toxins.
I will emphasize the intensity and frequency of the use of the massage techniques in all of the videos. I will start here by stating that more is not always better. Deep, painful pressure is NOT the way to help your body heal. Too much, too often can negatively affect your central nervous system. Your CNS can become overwhelmed and can trigger chronic pain. I will encourage you to stay away from pressure that ends up creating bruising.
You will be guided to use a perceived pain scale of 1-10. I will caution you, strongly urge you to stay below a 5 on that scale.
• 1 is when you have absolutely no sensation
• 10 is an intensity that is unbearable.
On the subject of more is not better, please do not massage the same area many times a day or on consecutive days. Your body needs time to adjust to the new state and needs time to heal, restore and rejuvenate. I would massage only every 48 to 72 hours, as needed. Do not get to the point that you are ‘’poking the bear’’. A gentle, kind approach will tame things more effectively.
I often get the question ‘’ Is it supposed to hurt because I am not feeling anything with this technique in this area. I am I doing it wrong?’’ The answer is NO. Healthy muscles don’t hurt. So celebrate when there is no pain or discomfort. That is how we ultimately want it to be.
If your body is under incredible tension or in a defense mechanisms state, you will find that your body may react in a way that massages feel threatening and thus the muscles will contract under the pressure rather than relax and release. If this is the case, you will need to approach the massages extremely slowly, progressively and use as soft of a massage tool as possible.
Now that I have said all of the above I can answer the question of ”how long do I massage each area”? with re-stating: It depends!
Each area that you massage can be for a brief moment up to 3, 4, 5 minutes and some. Learn to listen to the needs of your body and you will find that perfect amount of time to spend on each spot that you have chosen to massage.
Most people can benefit from massage. However, massage may not be appropriate if you have:
• Bleeding disorders or take blood-thinning medication
• Burns or healing wounds
• Deep vein thrombosis
• Severe osteoporosis
• Severe thrombocytopenia
Discuss the pros and cons of massage with your doctor, especially if you are pregnant or you have cancer or unexplained pain.
I cannot teach you about self-massage without inserting a bit of ‘’anatomy’’. As mentioned in the introduction I am giving you a distilled peek into a world that is incredibly complex and fascinating. You can choose to enjoy the information that I am sharing about a part of our body called fascia but know that you do not have to know this information to benefit from the techniques that I am going to teach you in the videos. I just believe that knowledge is power.
If ever you want to dig deeper into this topic, I highly recommend that you purchase a book by Jill Miller, creator of Yoga Tune-up®, entitled ‘’The Roll Model; A Step-by-Step Guide to Erase Pain, Improve Mobility, and Live Better in Your Body. She goes into detail about fascia and external self-massage techniques, some of which I am going to share with you. I have trained in Jill’s Yoga Tune-up® methods and have even traveled all the way to Germany to assist her on stage during her presentation at the Mobility and Fascia Summit in 2016. Yes, she is that good that I would travel that far to experience her teachings.
Let’s talk about Fascia
Fascia, one of many types of connective tissue in your body, is an interconnected, three-dimensional web of tissue that extends from head to toe, from back to front and interior to exterior. It encloses and separates muscles and internal organs. It does not leave any part of your body un-enrobed, un-held or un-suspended.
• It is the soft tissue scaffolding that gives your body its form and shape.
• It is what is holding you together.
• It surrounds and penetrates muscles, bones, organs, nerves, blood vessels and other structures of the body.
• It is responsible for maintaining structural integrity, providing support and shock absorption
• It acts as a home for sensory neurons. Fascia is so nerve rich that it can arguably be called a tissue of communication.
• After injury, fascia creates an environment for tissue repair.
The variable textures of fascia interconnect the multiple layers and systems of your body while serving as a highway for tissues to relate to one another. Fascia is often described as, and can look like:
• Transparent cellophane wrap
• Very aqueous/ wet webbing or filament such as a spider web or cotton candy
• Can also be a tough, white-ish fibrous band. An example of this would be the Illio-Tibial band (commonly known as the IT band).
( see … that was not so painful, right?)
Tools that I suggest you use for the practice of self massage:
• Exercise ball or well stuffed cushion
• A low stool/bench/chair, yoga blocks and a mat
• Slightly deflated coregeous ball ( purple ball in image) or soft, playable, grippy playground ball (blue ball in image)
• Yoga tune up balls; original size ( I have 2 in a pouch and 1 on its own in the image. They are usually sold in pairs. you only need a pair) and an alpha ball or 2. You can buy these online, at a massage therapy clinic or at fitness store near you. You can use tennis balls instead of the original size tune-up ball but I prefer the ”grippiness” of the Tune-up balls, and a soft version of a soft-ball sized ball if you don’t have the alpha sized Tune-up ball.
• Dollar store emoji ball or a soft, pliable, air filled baseball-sized ball
• Massage stick or simply a rolling pin or wood dowel
External Self-Massage Techniques
Here is a summary or glossary of the massage methods that you will be using. Once again, you do not need to know all of these by heart to be able to benefit from the massages. Each video will use one or a combination of these options. You will eventually find which ones or combinations are the most effective for you.
Fascial stretching/shearing by using your fingers to pinch the skin gently while pulling, rolling, twisting and wringing
Apply consistent pressure with a therapy ball straight into your spot of choice. Stay in that one spot for a length of time that allows for the feeling of tension release. If the intensity of the pressure rates above a 5 out of 10 please make sure to back off
Manoeuvre the therapy ball to follow along the same line of grain of the muscle or moving along it.
Move, slide or drag the therapy ball against the direction the fibers run within the muscle. AKA moving across it
pin & spin
Hold the therapy ball with pressure at a place along the muscle where it feels tender and spin/rotate either the ball or your body part around. The ball remains in contact with the skin at the original spot thus creating a pull on the skin, fascia and muscles
pin & mobilize
Pin the ball against a tight spot. While the ball is remains in that location, move a neighbouring area away from or toward the pinned ball
Place the ball onto a tight spot and contract the spot pinned by the ball, then relax it. Contract/relax is the fastest way to reduce muscle bracing
plow the ball(s) like a snow plow against a mass of tissue to influence motion at your fascial seams. This method pushes everything to one side then you can come back, gathering everything in the way, just like a snow plow would to send it to the other side
What body parts are recommended to massage?
The ultimate massage would be a full body massage done by a skilled massage therapist who is highly trained in fascial release and understands pelvic floor issues. Not all registered massage therapists have these skills.
For this program I am going to teach you some basics that you will be able to apply to your body as needed.
The following areas will be demonstrated in the upcoming videos
Be it scarring from stitches or piercings or wounds, you need to release the adhesions that form under the scar. We will use a skin rolling technique to reduce the tension and lines of pull created by the scarring. Never massage a fresh wound or stitches. Wait until it is healed and then start slowly. An old scar will also benefit from massage. It is never too late to make a difference.
External Pelvic Floor massage:
You are able to release unwanted tension in the external pelvic floor muscles by using various sizes of balls. Start with a large exercise ball then move on to a deflated soft playground ball and then progress to a smaller ”emoji” style, soft, playable, air filled ball the size of a base ball.
Use your fingers to release tension or adhesions that restrict your main breathing muscle. You will also release tension by resting on a deflated playground ball.
The technique will involve pinning a deflated playground ball between your abdomen and the floor. You will allow the compression to happen at various points along the muscle and you will activate/lift your leg off the ground to enhance the release of that powerful muscle.
This massage is specifically targeting helping elimination happen just a little bit better. You will be stimulating the descending, transverse and ascending colon using your hands and or by rolling on a deflated playground ball. Certainly a great way to tackle constipation!
Our feet are the base of our stability and our ability to be mobile. If our feet don’t work properly, the rest of our body will have to compensate and thus the deterioration domino effect will without a doubt, happen. There are 2 videos just on ways to massage your feet. You will also get to have a glimpse into what Reflexology is and how powerful that type of treatment can be for your pelvic floor issues!
We will use rolling pins/sticks to release tension in our calves, hamstrings, quadriceps and our inner thighs. We need our calves to be healthy in order to squat well. The importance of the squat will be explained in the next module. Trust me, you need to be able to squat well and often! Your hamstrings and quads certainly play a major role in our ability to move and be upright. Making sure that our quads are adhesion free, supple and strong will make all the difference in the proper support role for a healthy back. The inner thighs are of a huge importance, especially if you struggle with incontinence, be it urge or stress incontinence. Chances are that if you are incontinent, you contract your inner thighs in hopes that you can stop the sudden, unwanted flow of urine. You will need to learn to stop doing that and likely have to do some work on releasing the stressed out, overworked, over-tight inner thighs.
Glutes and hips:
Quite possibly your glutes are your go to clenchers to help you avoid the embarrassment of suddenly peeing yourself. Just as the inner thighs, you will need to learn to STOP clenching your butt! You are creating the perfect storm to mess up the proper tension lines for your pelvic floor to work efficiently. We will roll our bum muscles as well as a muscle called the tensor fascia latae (TFL), the anchor muscle for your Illio-tibial band (IT band) We will work to free our hips to ensure great movement in the pelvic area.
Jaw and Upper Traps:
Hands and therapy balls will be used to release tension in these areas. You may be shocked at how many sensations you may experience in these areas, and YES, those tensions can be linked to pelvic floor tensions and vice versa! CRAZY! but true.
External massage of Pelvic Floor
Diaphragm and viscera
Feet - Massage & Reflexology
Reflexologist Louise Groulx will talk about how a reflexology session can not only make you feel feel amazing but it will actually help stimulate other parts of your body. It will help your bladder, your uterus, and all the pelvic organs and beyond work more efficiently. She offers a few great tips for you to be able to do at home on your own time.
I have had great success with her treatments. I have also referred many of my clients to her and they have all come back with rave reviews.
Schedule an appointment with Louise or find a qualified reflexologist in your neck of the woods.
Glutes and TFL
I am offering you 3 different way to massage your buttocks and your hips. You do not have to do all 3 methods and they are not the ONLY way to massage that area. These are suggestions to help you get to know that part of your body and to help release any unwanted tension, adhesion and to restore/ensure a suppleness to this strong group of muscles.
Mid to upper back
Studies show that an increase in the curve of the mid back (kyphosis) and decrease of the lumbar curve is a risk factor for incontinence and pelvic floor dysfunction.
Having that increased midback roundness or curve and decreased lumbar curve aka a flatter lower back is not something we can get rid of overnight, which is why it’s important to be aware of your posture and work to prevent these alignment weaknesses.
As motioned in the Lifestyle section, we need to practice standing tall, sitting well and avoiding developing ‘’text head’’. Did you know that for each 15 degrees of head tilt to look at your electronic device your head weighs doubles! OUCH! Work on your posture like it’s your job. Re-positioning yourself into proper posture takes work and dedication but will make all the difference in the quality of the functioning of your pelvic floor and so much more!
A great way to help the mid back regain and retain healthy mobility is to stretch over a foam roller.
- Simply lie back on the foam roller (or bolster if you find the foam roller too intense), hands supporting your neck.
- Start at your mid back (around your bra line if you are wearing a bra.)
- Lean back and hold for a second or two
- Roll up, moving the roller toward your head an inch or two and lean back again.
- Repeat until you have made it all the way to the top of the shoulders,
- Repeat paying attention to any tight spots again
A fabulous combination of things to do to regain the curve in your low back would be to STOP clenching your glutes all the time, stretch your hip flexor muscles on a regular basis and do your squats.
Upper Traps ( Between the shoulders and neck area)
Internal self massage
You can also download the following summarized version of the explanations for the internal pelvic floor muscles massage.
This is not meant as a diagnostic tool nor is it meant to replace the guidance of a medical practitioner. Discontinue if you feel that it does not benefit you or you feel that this may not be right for you.