Here are four key pieces to invest in to ensure you're taking care of you at home
We've been working from home, schooling from home and exercising from home for more than a year now, so at-home physical therapy tools can be a perfect way to make staying active easier. There are some pieces of equipment—some high tech, some unbelievably low tech—that can help you find relief between visits to your massage therapist or physiotherapist.
If you're self-treating at home, limit your focus to only a few areas at a time, especially if it's a new technique for you. If you experience any sharp pain, stop immediately. If you're treating a known injury, progress slowly and follow-up with ice, and if you're experiencing severe or chronic pain, always consult a professional.
From the lowest priced gear to the highest, here's what you should invest in...
1. Tennis balls, $19.99
SportChekThe humble tennis ball (or lacrosse ball or hockey ball) is brilliant at targeting myofascial trigger points. When it comes to self-massage, the tennis ball is a time-honoured tool for a cheap yet effective way to precisely release knots in the back, glutes, feet and even calves. Use by rolling onto the tennis ball until you find a knot. If it's really tender, gently rock back and forth or, if you can bear it, focus pressure directly on the knot and hold it, until you feel a release. It'll hurt—possibly a lo!t—until that sweet release, but if you can withstand the pain, the results are magnificent.
2. Foam roller, $34.99
SportChekThere is a great variety of foam rollers in the marketplace. If you have the space for it, a full length 36-inch roller will allow you to do more exercises as you progress, and one that's smooth allows for far greater precision. It might seem counterintuitive, but a smooth roller will be able to "dig" into sore muscles better than a corrugated one. Try to get the firmest foam roller possible, which will not only last longer but provide a better, more stable base. If you're worried about pain, use your hands, arms and feet to take the pressure off the body parts being rolled. Don't rely on a soft roller, which will only sag and promote poor technique. Remember to only roll over muscles, not bones and to support other parts of your body that aren't necessarily active. Eventually, you'll be able to stack your body to increase pressure on the area being rolled. There are a lot of fantastic YouTube videos that will guide you through a foam rolling routine, from beginner to advanced.
3. Neck massager, $209.99
Bed, Bath and BeyondThis device is worn like a scarf, hugging the back of your neck and draping open over your shoulders. There are massage rollers embedded into this device that provide a shiatsu-type massage, kneading into sore muscles and knots. While it's adjustable, you can also increase the pressure by pulling down on the straps, helping the device dig in deeper. It's not going to replace your massage therapist, but it comes in a very close second. If you're open to a little creativity, you can also lay it down on the floor and massage your calves, or place it on a table to massage your forearms.
4. Theragun, $549
TheragunTheragun is a percussive recovery tool, meaning it delivers more of a pummelling (in the very best sense) rather than a kneading massage. There are a few different models of the Theragun, with the Elite encompassing the best of all worlds: it's small enough to be nimble and quiet, but large enough to be extremely powerful. The intensity level is adjustable, but even more effective is using the different detachable heads. The larger the head, the more diffused the sensation is; conversely, the ones with finer points/edges deliver an exquisitely focused pulsing. The angled handle looks unusual until you actually start to manoeuver it, when it becomes very clear that the various grips points allow you to hold it easily almost anywhere you want to massage, including over the shoulder to reach the trapezius, behind your back to the hamstrings and all along your IT bands. And while this technique isn't officially endorsed, the Theragun is fantastic when wedged between couch seat cushions (to keep it steady) so you can rest your calf on top and let gravity help work out those knots and cramps.