Neck and back pain is a common ailment and working with a good massage practitioner can help us unwind many of those uncomfortable knots that distract us as we go about our days.
Those knots, also called “trigger points,” are difficult to locate. They’re like little knobs on your body that hurt when you manipulate them with your finger. These trigger points contribute to a number of things:
Shortness of breath
With the help of a special type of massage therapy, and one unique tool that we can use by ourselves, we can make progress to alleviating many of these symptoms.
Myofascial Release to the Rescue
The process of unwinding these knots is called myofascial release, as the specific areas of tightness and sensitivity in your body originate in the myofascial tissues.
The term myofascial was coined in the 1940s by Dr. Janet Travell, who authored the trigger point therapy manual, Myofascial Pain & Dysfunction: The Trigger Point Manual.
The myofascial tissues are the thin and fibrous web-like connective tissue that surround, support, and protect our muscles and bones. These tissues are so strong that they could collectively support up to 2,000 pounds if outstretched like a mesh bag.
In their normal disposition, the myofascial tissues are soft and relaxed. Stress and trauma, however, can cause them to constrict.
For a lot of people, a regular myofascial release session that involves hard work on the behalf of the massage practitioner using their knuckles and elbows to apply a gentle but firm pressure onto these trigger points to release the knots, may be hard to afford.
Fortunately, one inexpensive tool can help us unwind those knots. It’s called a Ma Roller.
Beat Back and Neck Pain with the Ma Roller
The Ma Roller is different from a foam roller in two ways:
It has grooves
Consequently, don’t be surprised if you have an intense and un-pleasurable first experience using the tool. It takes some getting used to.
The Ma Roller was invented in 1970 by an acupuncture and yoga practitioner, who took inspiration from the teachings of ancient China.
The Ma Roller works based on the meridian system of traditional Chinese medicine, which says that we have three major lines of energy in the body — the central line, which connects to the central nervous system and regulates how the brain and spinal cord send information to our external sense organs; and the two lines to either side of the central line, which connect to the autonomic nervous system and regulate the unconscious functioning of all of our internal organs like the heart, stomach, and intestines.
The grooves in the Ma Roller are designed to align with the left and right energy lines, so that rolling them along the back can help unblock the knots and restore the normal flow of energy.
How to Use a Ma Roller
Using the Ma Roller requires getting a “feel” for it, and allowing yourself to be open, receptive, and conscious.
You can massage yourself with the roller for up to 45 minutes.
Here’s a general guideline:
1. Lie in a relaxed and flat position upon the floor, and place the Ma Roller roller beneath your neck.
2. Raise your knees, keeping the soles of your feet pressed firmly against the floor.
3. Lift your back slightly using support from your forearms and scoot the Ma Roller beneath your back so that the two grooves align carefully on both sides of your spine.
4. Lock your hands behind your head and slowly push the body forwards and backwards with the legs.
5. Seek out tender or pleasurable spots on the back and allow yourself to remain in specific spots until tensions go away
Other Ways to Use the Ma Roller
You may also consider using the Ma Roller to treat other areas of tension in the body, aside from the back.
Here are some ideas for ways to treat other areas of the body using the Ma Roller:
Sit up and roll the bottom of calves and thighs.
Hold the roller and use it to apply pressure to the tops of the thighs.
Massage your feet with the roller, using a piece of furniture for support.
Hold the roller and use it to apply pressure to the neck and head.
Hold the roller with one hand and gently hammer the shoulders.