Remember way back when I was talking about preparing for my first Ironman experience? I know, it's been a while (haha). Anyway, I wanted to retouch on something that I was exposed to during my trip to Madison earlier this month.
The Ironman Expo was amazing. All sorts of cool new products, gizmos, and gadgets. Some were really cool. Others, not so much. One of the highlights was the TriggerPoint booth. The representative, a young massage therapist from Arizona (I think?), approached me and asked me what problems I was having. I explained to her that my left shoulder ached, and that it especially felt weak when I was swimming. I pointed to my shoulder blade, and before I could even say "scapula," she told me: "Looks like you are having issues with your subscapularis. I know what to do!"
Going into the booth, I knew what to do, too. But I was surprised when she sat me down and had me put my left foot on a block. Looking inquisitively at her, she caught me hesitation, and explained:
"We should focus our maintanence at our feet. A lot of problems in our upper body can originate at the ground." This hit home for me, especially since I have had biomechanical issues in the past that stemmed from inappropriate shoes. So she used the Footballer on my calf, and it hurt! She then had me lay on my back on the ground and had me place the TP Massage Ball under my scapula. Just pushing the ball into my back, I felt tension release. She explained that the ball was holding the subscapularis tendon in place, which allowed me to stretch the actual muscle body when I moved my left arm across my body. Again, PAIN! but it was a good pain.
And her logic made sense to me. With my hefty background in biomechanics (both clinical and engineering related), I know that both tendon and muscle have strain-rate dependent properties, and because tendon connects muscle to bone, both can be elongated during a stretch[1,2]. By holding the tendon in place with the Massage Ball, I was able to stretch only the muscle body. When I sat up, my shoulder ached from the ball, but the muscle tightness was gone. A short while later, the ache was gone, too.
That night, when we stayed with Gigi in Whitefish Bay, I noticed she had a few TriggerPoint tools, too. I asked her what she thought of them. She was already on her second set of TriggerPoint devices!
Since Ironman, I've tried to find ways of getting around the TriggerPoint therapies, but nothing has worked. I can't afford to get a deep-tissue massage every week, and even if I could- my masseuse has left the area!! Major blow for me there. I tried using imitation TriggerPoint therapies (read: tennis ball), but they just aren't the same. Not only are tennis balls too stiff (TriggerPoint has a somewhat cushy fabric around it), they are too big! They also don't last that long... probably because tennis balls are not made to be stood on! So, I've recently become an affiliate for TriggerPoint.
If you are interested in trying out their product, click on the button below and you will receive 5% off your first purchase (except the Grid)!! Just enter this code to get the discount: MKILLIAN. If you order by phone, just tell them my name.
References  S. Abellaneda,N. Guissard, andJ. Duchateau. The relative lengthening of the myotendinous structures in the medial gastrocnemius during passive stretching differs among individualsJ. Appl. Physiol.January 1, 2009106:169-177  C.I. Morse, H. Degens, O.R. Seynnes, C.N. Maganaris, and D.A. Jones. The acute effect of stretching on the passive stiffness of the human gastrocnemius muscle tendon unit.January 1, 2008The Journal of Physiology,586,97-106.