As you begin your chiropractic care, treatment in the office is obviously extremely important. The chiropractic adjustment is the most important part of your care, and that can only be performed by your chiropractor. However, your chiropractic can not correct everything on their own. As you progress through your care plan, your doctor will likely begin to recommend at home exercises to help get you better as fast as possible.
Your chiropractor may also include a few different tools for you to use at home to help with your progress. This post is designed to help you understand how these tools work and how they help you get the results that you are looking for.
Foam Rollers and Lacrosse Balls
The muscles of our bodies are connected by a tissue known as fascia. This fascia helps stabilize and attach our muscles to one another. When fascia becomes tight, it can form trigger points, more commonly known as muscle “knots.” These trigger points are usually tender and can cause muscular pain. Foam rollers and lacrosse balls are used to help smooth out fascia and muscle, thus removing the trigger point and relieving pain.
Foam rollers are firm cylinders that can vary in length. By rolling over the trigger point using the foam roller, the muscles and fascia are stretched out and the trigger point is released, which can greatly improve pain levels. The key to using a foam roller is finding the area that is painful to roll over, and then spending 30-60 seconds in that area.
Foam rollers are particularly useful in areas such as the gluts, hamstrings and upper back. For patients with lower back pain, I usually recommend foam rolling the gluts and hamstrings, because these muscles are almost always tight in these patients. If a patient spends a lot of time sitting at work, I will recommend foam rolling the upper back. This can help relieve the tension caused by sitting with poor posture.
Lacrosse balls work in the same way as foam rollers, except they are smaller and can be more precise. If you are unfamiliar with a lacrosse ball, think of it as a really hard tennis ball. Lacrosse balls can be beneficial for trigger points in the upper trapezius, what people usually refer to as the top of their shoulder, or in the scapula region, between the shoulder blades. Some people find that it is easier to begin with a tennis ball in these areas before moving to a firmer lacrosse ball.
The Neck Wedge
Another tool that I use in my office is the neck wedge. One of the most common issues I find on x-rays of a patient’s neck is the loss of the normal cervical curve. When looking at a normal neck on x-ray, you should see a reverse C shaped curve. On most x-rays I see, this curve is either reduced, completely straight, or reversed into a C shape. This loss of curvature can lead to neck pain. The neck wedge is designed to help naturally rebuild this curve, thus helping relieve neck pain.
When beginning to use the neck wedge, I recommend that patients spend about 5 minutes a day on the wedge. As the wedge becomes more comfortable, they should add a minute every few days until they reach 15 minutes per day. If a neck wedge is not available, a bath towel can be rolled into a cylinder and used in place of the wedge. In my experience, patients who use the neck wedge as recommended, not only notice decreased neck pain, but also notice improvements in their posture.
By incorporating a foam roller, lacrosse ball or neck wedge, you can greatly impact your chiropractic care. Before using any of these tools, make sure you discuss them with your doctor. They can also give you more precise instruction, and make sure that you are using them properly.