In August, I became fascinated with using golf balls to release the fascia in my feet. I discussed it in my blog here. I have been using a small ball on my foot every evening, and can officially say it has definitely improved the way my feet feel. They aren't tender at all, the intrinsic muscles seem to engage more easily during movement, and, considering that I am on my feet for hours every day, they feel great. More interestingly, however, is how this has affected my clients' movement patterns.
Before I get too far ahead of myself, it is worthwhile to note some of the discussions that are taking place in the movement/rehabilitation world, specifically in regard to trigger point therapy. In a fascinating blog by Diane Jacobs, she theorizes trigger points are actually neural in nature, rather than a structural issue, either fascial or muscular. As a result, trigger points provide temporary relief via the CNS, but it's short lived. I can get behind all of this. We aren't changing or lengthening the fascia when we perform SMR or trigger point work. We are providing a short moment of neurological change. During this window, I would argue it's possible to invoke potentially more permanent change if the trigger point is biomechanical in nature, not the result of an internal issue such as a cyst or tumor. If, for instance, we do trigger point work on our foot, mobilize the ankle, and begin working on short foot and better movement patterns in the lower limb, I don't think the trigger point will repeatedly return, especially if we are diligent with our training. This is the general theory behind the NASM CES course which, while it has its flaws, in my opinion has some merit.
Now, back to my clients. I have a client I have been working with for years who has trouble with back spasms. Her hamstrings and foot complex have always been incredibly tight, no matter what I tried (and I tried it all. Hamstring SMR, activating the tibialis anterior to release the calves, PNF on the hamstrings, etc). I began using the "golf ball trick," in addition to short foot activation, single leg stance with short foot activation, and diaphragmatic breathing. Supine leg flexion is close to 90 degrees and her foot is incredibly normal, not internally rotated and slightly plantar flexed like it has been. You might argue this was related to the breathing, and I think that played a role, but she says the trigger points in her foot are almost completely gone. She actually looks forward to our barefoot work,and sometimes requests it at the beginning of our sessions. I have another client who had low back surgery 11 months ago for a disc repair. He has had trouble with tightness in his calves and hamstrings since prior to the surgery. Again, I utilized a variety of techniques to improve mobility and function, but it wasn't until we added the trigger point work to his feet that he noticed substantial improvement in hip flexion and mobility while walking and jogging. Maybe these are outliers, or maybe other factors are at play, but I will continue to use the golf ball trick on clients with trigger points in their feet. Even if relief is short term in nature, the more tools I have to help people move better, the more likely they are to move more.
Yours in health and wellness,