Amber Skye Forbes

Writing Words With the Tips of My Toes

A Useful Tool for Dancers…and Writers

Ever since starting Dance August mid-January, I have begun taking care of my body more after a 2 1/2 hour dance class. That class pushes your body to the limits, and because of this, the trigger points in my left leg began acting up. I had accepted them as permanent knots that would never go away. My previous dance school didn’t trigger them that much. Fibromyalgia is also notorious for them. After all, I’ve had them for two years. However, knowing that this is the school I want to stay at for a long while, I knew I needn’t not accept that line of thought anymore. I scheduled an appointment with my primary physician; however, she told me the predictable: heat, stretching, better arch support, and a possible professional massage. Even so, I heeded her advice.

I had THIRTEEN muscle knots in my leg.

This is exactly what I use.

This is exactly what I use.

Some were small, others were probably about an inch in diameter. (I am only guessing based on the tender spots I found in my calf that weren’t present in my other one.) When you have muscle knots for as long as I have, those muscle knots develop scar tissue around them to prevent the muscle from tearing. It’s amazing, actually, that I have been able to function in ballet with that many muscle knots. Even so, they were causing me muscle weakness I was not willing to accept. I have also always felt a stretch in my left leg  I could never get rid of during pliés that I never felt in my right, too. I don’t feel that anymore.

My left balance in class has been horrible in adagio. You stand on one leg, flat, while your other leg does something, and no matter what I did, I could not regroup my left balance once I lost it. My right balance, however, had no problem. So I started using my percussion massager on all those knots. It’s very painful, but because of ballet, I have a high pain threshold, which is unusual for someone with fibromyalgia. The knots didn’t really affect anything else in ballet, but I love adagio, and so I am determined to perfect that left balance.

I use this massager all over my body after an intense dance class. It usually prevents that delayed onset muscle soreness after intense workouts.

In any case, having one node on this massager allows for precise targeting of specific tender spots on the body. Since I’ve had mine for two years, it took probably about two weeks to get rid of the majority in my calf. The longer you have knots, the harder it is to get rid of them because of that scar tissue. You have to wear the scar tissue down first before you can get to the knot. Otherwise, this little beauty will get rid of new muscle knots immediately. It really helps me when my fibromyalgia is acting up and my muscles become tense. Stretching doesn’t work. In fact, stretching makes it worse. I don’t know the reason behind this, but it does.

As writers, we spend a lot of time sitting. Many of us sit with bad posture, often slumping over to get our work done, hardly ever taking breaks. So some of us develop knots. Some of us begin to feel tight in our upper bodies and even necks. This happens because you’re restricting blood flow to areas of muscle that become tight. A percussion massager can bring back that blood flow so you can comfortably get back to working on your writing. However, do not use this massager as a crutch to continue bad habits. You need to improve your posture and take periodic breaks away from the computer to regroup your muscles. Blood flow is so important. If you continue bad habits, you’re going to eventually develop tightness in other areas of your body that you don’t want, such as your hips, lower back, and eventually legs. You might need to see a physical therapist once your body gets to this point. Then you will need a deep tissue massage. However, my percussion massager is my own personal masseuse. I don’t need a deep tissue massage, not when this thing can do it effectively.

It’s $99.00. At least when I paid for it. You can get it at Brookestone, or on their website.

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This is my foam roller. There are many different types of rollers out there. Research the types to find the best one that would suit your body’s needs. Mine is black compacted foam, so it’s hard.

Don’t despair if you can’t afford this. There are cheaper alternatives. A foam roller is one. There are many different types of foam rollers, so do your research to see what works best for you. All you do is put the foam roller on the floor, lay whatever area is tense on it, or whatever area is tender, and use your own body weight to roll that tender area back and forth over the roller. After a few minutes, that tightness should disappear. Hand massagers might be effective, too, if you are able to reach those tight areas. I would invest in a foam roller, though. I believe mine was sixteen dollars when I paid for it. I think a hand massager would be great for your neck.

Periodically stretch, too, when you’re taking breaks so you don’t develop knots.

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These are cheap. Research how to use them for upper body strengthening. They can also be used for other types of strengthening. I have stronger ones than this so they don’t snap. I bought mine at Sport’s Authority. These vary in strength. Yellow is the weakest; black is the strongest.

Here are some other tips so you don’t have to spring for a percussion massager if you don’t have long-term knots:

  1. Stretch periodically. I would say every thirty minutes take a break away from the computer for about five minutes
  2. Invest in a theraband to strengthen the upper body. This can improve posture and alignment
  3. Yoga
  4. Core strengthening exercises: crunches, about 50 a day
  5. Foam roller for those hard-to-reach tender spots

Dance class does enough for me in regards to strengthening my body, but I will have to get back to the theraband to have my left leg catch up to my right, strength-wise. Long-term muscle knots can prevent strength from being gained in those areas. Since I had a lot, I have a lot of strengthening that I need to do. Luckily the knots have never affected my pointe work.

I am pleased with my massager. I feel like I finally have my left leg back.

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