Category Archives: Care of the Body

Self-massage and barefooting

It is possible that if you feel pain somewhere in your body, that there are knots in your muscles that contribute in some way. Another name would be trigger points. In short, bands of muscle that are, and remain, contracted. The theory is that these trigger points do not hurt in themselves, but send their pain elsewhere in very predictable patterns. Pioneering work was done in this area by Drs Travell and Simons, culminating in their book Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction. The wikipedia page for trigger points.

Later, Clair Davies published a book called The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook. This is the book that I bought, and used to help fix the pain I felt in my feet. I bought a tool called a Theracane and set about massaging the trigger points in my shins, calves, gluteals and beyond.  It wasn’t a magic cure and I still pay close attention to feelings of tightness and discomfort, then set aside time to self-massage. I’m particularly talking about my back and pelvis at the moment. My feet are basically fixed, to my satisfaction. Going barefoot helped more than I can possibly say, in helping to re-strengthen and re-train myself to walk gently. My toes spread, my arches and calves beefed up and my big toes took their rightful place again as the strongest toe, the one that will support most of the weight of your body. Mine had abdicated and left the next toe in line to take the (repetitive) strain. Part of the problem being that shoes had squeezed all the toes together, bunion style. A great link here:

The way I see trigger points is that I pay attention and self-massage.. but I use yoga, and postural self-awareness to try and prevent getting them in the first place.

The advantages to self-massage as I see it:

  • Much much cheaper than paying for a massage therapist.
  • You can use bio-feedback to zone in on the exact place to massage.
  • You can do it any time of day, whenever you feel pain, assuming you have somewhere private to do it.
  • It could empower you to fix your own problems with pain.
  • You needn’t buy the books, you could borrow them, whilst remembering that if your local library doesn’t have them, many will do inter-library loans (for a small fee).
  • You needn’t buy special tools. A branch of wood you’ve carved yourself, a knobbly household item such as a mobile phone, or your own body ie knees can massage the opposite calf, supported fingers can give a great head and face massage.

The disadvantages:

  • It won’t fix all pain. Your pain could be due to medical issues of which I claim no knowledge or expertise.
  • It won’t fix any problem instantly. There could be a wide range of things at play, from your head to your feet.
  • Potentially making the pain worse, even short term, with over-enthusiastic massage. The answer is knowledge about what you’re doing. Knowledge is Power. Research on the net, read books if you can and learn a little about anatomy. The location of nerves, major blood vessels and lymph nodes to name a few. Inform yourself, and be gentle!

What I would say in conclusion is that learning self-massage could help relieve some of the pain you feel, and that if you suffer from chronic pain, or even just annoying aches and pains, that you might like to do some research of your own in this area. I’ve provided links to everything I can find that might be useful, and I wish you all the best in finding the answers to your pain. I hope what i’ve given is a balanced perspective of trigger point therapy, and I welcome constructive feedback and your own stories.

Other resources i’ve found. The only massage one I can personally vouch for is the book by Clair Davies:

Self Massage for Athletes A Google Books link that allows you to read some of the book.

The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook by Clair Davies Google Books again. .. Sensible advice for aches, pains and injuries. Their words, not mine. Great for those interested in barefoot running, walking and being. Includes forums, FAQs, and many personal stories of improvements in well-being through choosing the barefoot path.