Jim had been an avid runner for many years when he began noticing a tightening of the muscles at the front of his hip. When that tension eventually turned into pain and began limiting his mileage, he found his way to my clinic. For Jim, running wasn’t just about physical health and how he looked poolside, but it was also his stress release and competitive outlet. Limiting his mileage and not being able to train for the next marathon was not only unacceptable — it was downright depressing.
His pain was primarily on the front and outside of his hip during the duration of his runs and eventually started hurting after his runs as well. In my evaluation, we found that his pain was reproduced by running in place and with deep squats. Before diving into hands-on treatment of the painful tissues, I taught him a self-treatment technique with a lacrosse ball that made absolutely no contact with those painful areas.
Sixty seconds later, he stood back up, jogged in place, and his face absolutely lit up. “How did you do that?! The pain is way better but we didn’t even touch where it hurts!”
“I didn’t do anything, Jim. You did,” I answered.
Lacrosse balls, foam rollers and other self-treatment tools can’t replace skilled hands and minds, but with the right guidance, it’s amazing what can be accomplished with do-it-yourself treatment.
Ever have pain in your shoulder with overhead reaching or lifts and wish you could improve it on your own? Does your hip ever bother you on runs or walks, and a 50% improvement would make a world of difference to you?
In this issue, I’m going to explain some lesser-known techniques with a lacrosse ball that can provide relief for some common types of hip and shoulder pain, including the one I taught to Jim.
There are quite a number of things that can be contributing to pain in these two areas, so please don’t think the DIY techniques presented here will be a complete solution or a replacement for seeing a qualified healthcare provider. However, in many cases, they can provide nice relief and help you get through your workouts safer and more comfortably. If they provide relief but don’t make you 100% pain-free, there’s a solid chance that a great physical therapist can get you all the way there.
Okay, let’s dive in and start with the hip.
As I hinted above, there’s a set of muscles in the hip that are often tight or in mild spasm when you have ongoing hip pain but often have no pain themselves. This set of muscles is called the “adductors,” and they run along the inner thigh, connecting to the pelvic bone at the groin area.
When we perform a myofascial release technique to the adductors, it will often provide relief to pain located in different parts of the hip. Again, this depends on a number of factors, but if you have ongoing hip pain, this may be worth a try along with seeing a physical therapist to build out a comprehensive plan to address all the underlying causes of the problem.
Although this article has photos, it’s still a little difficult to visualize the exact placement of the lacrosse ball, so I recommend you also watch our video demonstrating this hip pain relief technique.
You’ll need a chair without arms, or alternatively you could use a weight bench. Stand next to the chair and sit down on the chair facing sideways (which is why you need an armless chair). Drop your leg off the front edge of the chair, so the knee is pointing down towards the ground and you end up in a lunge-type position. You will then place a lacrosse ball between the inner thigh muscles (up close to your groin) and the front edge of the chair. The inner thigh (adductors) are essentially trapping the ball against the chair.
These tissues will often be tender, and that’s okay. In fact, if they are tight and are a part of your hip issue, it would be uncommon for them to be completely pain-free when you push into them with the lacrosse ball. Now you will make very small, rotating movements of your pelvis to produce a massaging action on the muscles. You can move the position of the lacrosse ball to get different parts of the adductors and try to find the most tender spots to spend some time working them with the ball.
If this technique isn’t clear from the description and photos, the video at this page should help give the guidance you need. We’re also happy to speak with you over the phone or in the clinic regarding any hip issues you’re having.
Now for the shoulder.
Shoulder pain is one of the most common things we treat and, like the hip, can be caused by a wide variety of injuries, dysfunctions and imbalances. Especially with the popularization of CrossFit and heavy Olympic lifts, shoulder pain with reaching or lifting overhead seems ever more common these days.
Even if your shoulder injury involves an internal joint issue that wouldn’t be improved with these self-treatment techniques, it’s impressive how much pain relief can often be obtained by working on the muscles and soft tissues all around the shoulder.
Instead of focusing on one set of muscles like we did in the hip, one of my physical therapists made a great video showing how to perform self-treatment myofascial release on all sides of the shoulder.
Generally speaking, you will be performing these self-release techniques against a wall, working the tissues on all sides of the shoulder and also using movements of the arm while holding pressure on tender points. Let the video and the photos with this article guide you, and feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions.
Give these DIY techniques a try, and let me know how they make you feel.
Jarod Carter PT, DPT, MTC, is the founder of Carter Physiotherapy, where active people in Austin go to quickly recover from injury so they can keep playing their sport, exercising and enjoying life. Offering specialized, hands-on manual therapy as well as online telehealth treatment options, all sessions are one-on-one with a Doctor of Physical Therapy and designed to get you maximal results as quickly as possible. Jarod is also the author of two books and has helped thousands of healthcare providers around the world to create private practices offering the highest level of treatment and care. Jarod provides monthly resources and discounts specifically for Austin Fit Magazine readers here: www.CarterPT.com/AFM