Master Mobility by Learning the Distinctions Between Flexibility, Inflexibility and Fascial Restriction Issues; Part 2: When to Increase Flexibility & When to Release Fascia

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This is Part II in a three part series. Click here for Part I.

Know YOUR goals:

If you’re trying to increase flexibility then I highly recommend you first get crystal clear on WHY you want this.

If you’re in pain and you think increasing your flexibility will get you OUT of pain, I’m here to tell you that the OPPOSITE is a far more likely and a safer approach: get yourself OUT of pain and you will probably (and quite quickly) recover the flexibility you lost when your nervous system detected danger and went about protecting you from further injury by restricting your mobility.

If you’re TRULY inflexible and you are NOT in pain, then by all means work on increasing flexibility – safely, in ways that don’t stress your tissues or put you in danger of injury (NOT static stretching).

If you’re not in pain and you’re a dancer, gymnast, runner, yogi etc…then you will be forced to do some static stretching, and I recommend you go about this in such a way that you don’t injure your soft tissue or joints.

If you are in pain AND you want to increase flexibility, then I highly recommend getting yourself out of pain FIRST. You’ll have a better baseline of what your actual flexibility level is like, and you won’t be running the risk of injury or increased pain by endangering your body with stretching that could cause more harm than good.

Know you’re why and you’ll begin forming an alliance with your body that will allow you to reach your goals safely, and far faster.

When to use fascial release:

  • If you’re in pain – anything from plantar fasciitis (all the itises) to knee pain, hip pain, back pain, shoulder issues, carpal tunnel pain, repetitive motion injuries, “pulled” or sprained muscles or ligaments etc
  • If you have restricted range of motion in one or more joints (hips, shoulders, knees, ankles, wrists) and you’re otherwise “flexible” enough to perform everyday tasks without issue (it’s likely a fascial restriction issue but this COULD be a true need for more flexibility – part 3 in this series is all about the overlap and how to know the differences)
  • Injury PREVENTION
  • If you want more SPRING in your system (and we should ALL want more spring!)
  • If you’re an athlete looking for an “edge” (optimize your fascia and you gain up to 10x better proprioception, not to mention you’ll be far less injury prone and you’ll recover faster)
  • If you want to feel lighter, more spacious and give your muscle fibers the freedom to move fluidly, no matter your age, activity level and even if you’re not in pain

When to increase flexibility:

  • You’re NOT in pain
  • You do a sport that requires more flexibility than the average person needs, such as gymnastics, yoga, dancing, ballet, CrossFit etc
  • You’ve ruled out fascial restriction issues and pain patterns that lead to lack of mobility as a reason for your inflexibility and you want to increase your natural bendyness
  • ……
  • yep, that’s all I got! Short list.

PARENTS AND COACHES OF CHILD ATHLETES:

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Master Mobility by Learning the Distinctions Between Flexibility, Inflexibility and Fascial Restriction Issues; Part 1 of 3

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“Will I be able to do the splits after you work on me?”

I’ve been asked this quite a few times when new clients walk into my office. My rise to fame would be meteoric if I could perform such a feat! The answer is NO, it doesn’t work that way.

Just because you are so flexible you can wrap yourself into a pretzel does NOT mean your fascia is healthy. Conversely, just because your fascia is healthy (maybe you’ve become a fascial release ninja?!) does NOT necessarily mean you will achieve an increase in flexibility. Though it might…

There is definitely some overlap and if you’re going to win the game of mastering your mobility, then it’s critical to understand the distinctions.

I’m going to do my best to break this down and make the info WORK for you and your goals.

This is PART ONE of a THREE PART series.

What does it mean to be flexible?

We all need to be flexible to a certain degree to perform everyday tasks: bending over to pick children or groceries up; being able to sit, walk and move with ease.

Take flexibility a step further and you might think of the people next to you in yoga who can go all the way into pigeon pose without screaming (definitely not me), or sit comfortably in a deep squat with perfect form and no knee pain (me!)

Take it to an even greater extreme and we’re talking about those people are so bendy it doesn’t even seem “right.” These are usually gymnasts, dancers, performers or dedicated yogis who have taken their practice to a totally different level: the human pretzel! (Yikes).

What does it mean to have healthy fascia?

Healthy fascia is SPACIOUS and fluid, well lubricated and springy, strong AND elastic (SUPPLE). Spacious is the KEY word.

When your fascia is in an optimal state it won’t hurt AT ALL when weight or compression is applied. That means you could have a sumo wrestler standing with his full weight on your IT Band and it wouldn’t hurt a bit! True story. (Actually I haven’t tested that one yet, but I should! Ha. That picture to the right is me devilishly excited to work on my apprentice’s IT Band, AND it demonstrates my hyper-mobile elbow and shoulder joints).

If your entire fascial system is healthy, it will act as one unit like a highly adaptive SPRING (click here for a specific post on this), allowing us to sprint, jump and fall with minimal impact on our bones.

We have as our birthright the ability to play and move as we want because our fascial system is designed to absorb impact AND allow us to spring out of jumps and steps with fluid elasticity.

Most of us, however, have unhealthy fascia to varying degrees and don’t even know how GOOD we can feel because fascia is only JUST beginning to make a name for itself within the fitness, medical and alternative wellness worlds. Getting our fascia healthy should NOT be limited (in my opinion) just to those of us in pain! Kind of like eating well and being active, the healthier our fascia the better we will feel in our bodies on a daily basis and PREVENT all kinds of soft tissue and joint pain as we age.

Distinctions between Flexibility, Hyper-mobility and Inflexibility:

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The #1 Factor that Affects Fascia & How PERSONALITY Plays a Big Role

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I have a question for you: what’s your personality type?

Are you a Type A person who is always on the move, always busy, alert, hardwired to check a hundred things off your to do list every day and almost incapable of chilling out? Or are you more in the camp of prioritizing slowness and relaxation into your days, preferring to let most things go unchecked off your to do list if it means staying calm? Or do you (like me) fall somewhere in between?

If you’ve gotten to know your body and its fascial patterns and textures, then maybe you’ll instantly become intrigued or laugh out loud when I tell you that all of the above personality traits are probably written all over your fascia.

How personality affects fascia:

If you are someone who thrives off of high pressure situations and is always “high strung,” then I can pretty much guarantee your fascial system reflects this.

Every client I’ve worked with who has this personality type has similar fascia: it’s STRINGY! “Wiry” people tend to have VERY wiry fascia. Not only is it stringy and wiry, but it usually feels dehydrated and unwilling to chill out. It is NOT supple and rarely feels soft even after years of working with me, and (in my opinion and experience working with clients like this over long periods of time) these people are typically far more prone to injuries involving tendon or ligament tearing/rupture and stretch reflex injuries like “pulled” hamstrings or strained forearm extensors (to name just two examples). This is because the fascial system is BRITTLE instead of hydrated and elastic.

In addition, any serious pain that does occur due to fascial or muscle imbalances appears to be far more difficult to permanently reverse than in someone who has a different personality (and thus body) type, because the fascia never reaches an ideal state of suppleness.

The clients I have who fit this description often work with me weekly for years (possibly for life), because we need to constantly keep that fascial system as healthy as possible when all it wants to do is recoil into its dehydrated stringy state.

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How Our Daily Habits Shape Our Fascia and Make us Prone to Certain Injuries

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What we do with the majority of our days has the greatest impact on the SHAPE and QUALITY of our fascia.

Fascia is meant to be nearly impervious to change. We have more fascia in our bodies than anything else, and it’s the tissue that both separates and connects every separate substance inside of us. If fascia were easily changeable we’d be in big trouble!

This is both good and bad news for us.

It means we can rest assured we won’t bruise like crazy or fall apart if we merely bump into things, and whatever we do with our days will have only minimal impact in small doses.

It also means that fascia will only change dramatically through habitual repetition/correction of certain movements and positions, OR by applying enough compression to the fascial system and asking the fascia to change itself (this is what I do in my private practice).

The seemingly insignificant everyday movements and positions we take as we sit, stand, sleep, play sports etc have the greatest effect on the shape of our fascia because we do these things for decades.

These are the things I’m always looking for in my private practice when working with clients to figure out exactly what may be causing whatever pain they’re experiencing; and YOU can do the same type of detective work for yourself.

For example:

If someone comes in with low back pain, it’s not enough (long term) to simply release key areas of fascia if they are partially or wholly creating their low back pain pattern with their habits (unless they want to become a weekly client of mine, which some do). In order to permanently reverse the pattern some of these habits need to be corrected.

Much of the time with people who come to me for low back pain relief there are anywhere from one to five or more daily habits that are contributing, such as leaning on one leg (say the left), holding their kids on that hip, a habit of sitting with that leg bent and it’s summer and during every mountainous hike they use that leg to step up onto rocks since it’s the strong one.

This is a common pattern I see in many of my clients, and all of this left leg dominance (or RIGHT leg) can lead to low back pain, knee pain, hip issues, foot issues and more.

There are TONS of these tiny habits to consider, and I’m not going to name them all or we’d be here all day. Please watch the video for specific examples of what to watch out for in YOUR life!

This post and video are meant to spark your curiosity about YOUR daily habits in life and activities.

The more you pay attention, the wiser you’ll be when it comes to whatever pain you may be prone to and how to reverse or prevent it.

Some of these habits are easier to change than others.

GREAT news for athletes:

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What to do for Whiplash and Upper Body Impact Injuries – Whether Acute or Decades Old

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If you’ve been in a car accident or experienced any kind of head or upper body impact trauma, chances are you also experienced some form of whiplash, whether mild or extreme.

What exactly is whiplash?

*Please note I am not trying to diagnose anyone! These are common experiences of people who have experienced or been diagnosed with whiplash or associated pain by a medical professional before coming to see me.

Most of the time we think of car accidents when we think of whiplash, but after 8 years of working with people in pain I think it can be applied to anything from falling while snowboarding or skiing, to contact sports like football or being dropped on your head if you’re a dancer or acro yogi.

It is my opinion that the body’s reaction to this kind of impact trauma is almost always the same, regardless of how it happened: the biceps and/or chest muscles will instinctively react with a powerful contraction to protect your neck from snapping (backwards or forwards), which has the potential to kill you instantly. This is our body’s way of protecting us from death!

I see the MAIN cause of resulting pain post-trauma coming from all the muscles and fascia AROUND the neck staying in a tightly contracted state, which will certainly cause a lot of neck pain and other issues often associated with whiplash.

The problem is NOT your neck:

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Release Your Biceps and Free Your Arms, Shoulders and Neck

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I often refer to the biceps as “the quads of the upper body.” Meaning, if I had to choose only ONE thing for every person in the western world to release in their upper body, it would be the biceps (more specifically, ALL the fascia within and around this muscle group INCLUDING the brachialis junction).

The biceps play a KEY role in upper body movement, and when the fascia within and surrounding them gets restricted it can wreak havoc on everything up AND downstream. (The quads are similarly critical in lower body and pelvic movement/structure, and if I had to choose only ONE thing to release in the lower body it would be the quads).

Reasons to release the fascia in your biceps:

  • Helps relieve shoulder issues, especially bicep tendon issues
  • Relieves elbow pain (especially when combined with my forearm or brachialis techniques)
  • Helps with carpal tunnel and wrist pain (combine with the forearms release linked to above)
  • Can be a player in neck issues and neck pain (combine with the pec and deltoid and trap/scalene release)
  • General upper body fascial health – keeping your biceps fascia free, unrestricted and elastic means better efficiency in your everyday life and activities!

Now, let’s look at some anatomy:

Pictured to the right you can see how connected the biceps are to the shoulder joint AND the elbow joint, and you can probably imagine because everything is connected, how they are also linked to the scapula (and rotator cuff) as well as the neck.

When the fascia in the upper arm gets dehydrated, shrinks and sticks to itself in balls, this pulls on ALL of the above mentioned joints and can contribute or be the main cause of a lot of issues, from radiating pain down the arm to rotator cuff and shoulder joint pain as well as biceps tendon tears and neck pain.

Is this a one-off solution for any of the above mentioned issues? Most likely not. MOST of the time there is a chain of connected players in any given “pain pattern,” and all of them need to be addressed to eliminate the issue.

I highly recommend using this technique IN CONJUNCTION with other techniques, depending on your goal.

Tips for getting the most out of this technique:

  • I tried several different balls for this, and the baseball was BY FAR the best. The lacrosse ball (my usual favorite) was a little too small. So if you can find a baseball you will definitely get the BEST result.
  • Take your time finding the right “pin”, and this might be different for every one of you. For me, the best way to pin my biceps is to start with the short head, or on the “inside” meaty part like I demonstrate in the video, and then use rotation to separate the stuck fascia between the two heads.
  • Take a lunging stance in order to sink your weight into the ball and get the best result with more compression.
  • Spread your fingers wide and make sure your arm is mostly or totally straight. This engages ALL the fibers of muscle and surrounding fascia in your entire arm, ensuring the best result that will affect joints up and down the chain.
  • Make sure you’re actually PINNING the tissues and not just rolling over or “massaging” them. This won’t actually release the fascia!
  • There may only be ONE or maybe two spots to go after on this one. If you get it right, you will only need 30 or so seconds, or maybe 10 back and forth rotations. Then I’d leave it for a day.
  • If you’re using this to get out of pain, make sure you include whatever other techniques may be necessary to get the best result.
  • If it’s a wrist or carpal tunnel issue, go after your forearms and brachialis.
  • If it’s a shoulder issue, you could use my pec and deltoid release.
  • If you’re looking to eliminate neck pain, definitely go after your pec and deltoid as well as your traps and scalenes.
  • If you have pain between the shoulder blades, click here for the best techniques to address that.
  • Use the SEARCH box in the right sidebar to find what you need on this site.

 

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For personalized help with head to toe pain issues, click here to schedule a private Skype consultation with Elisha Celeste. SUBSCRIBE below and get $15 off your first session.

 

Two Easy Stretches for Your Shoulder JOINT that FEEL GOOD & Increase ROM

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These are two great stretches for your shoulder JOINT.

If you have stiff shoulders, a partially frozen shoulder (please do not attempt this if you have a fully frozen shoulder!) or you’re a serious Oly or weight lifter then these two stretches could benefit you.

I don’t have a lot to add here that isn’t in the video. This one is best explained on camera!

I learned both of these stretches 4 years ago from my personal trainer when I was doing a lot of Olympic lifting and he wanted to make sure my shoulders were warmed up properly.

I’ve shown these stretches to clients who have very stiff shoulder joints, those who have had shoulder surgery and have some scar tissue in and around the joint, and to the few clients I’ve worked with who have partially frozen shoulders. They’ve all really liked them and, when used regularly, have reported an increase in range of motion and more ease in the joint.

Get the most out of these stretches:

  • Make sure with both of these techniques that the angle of your lower and upper arm, AND humerus (upper arm) and body are at 90 degrees (as pictured to the right)
  • DO NOT PUSH BEYOND A GOOD STRETCH
  • You shouldn’t be cranking down on your joint with a lot of force, nor should these stretches feel painful; these work better with a gentle approach and the stretch should feel mostly GOOD
  • Use PNF principles to get the best result: PNF stands for proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation, and the idea is to use GENTLE muscle activation by pushing against the direction of the stretch in a resisted manner for about 3 seconds.
  • After you do this, release the stretch completely, then repeat.
  • PLEASE watch the video for a demonstration of what this all means.
  • I like to repeat the PNF stretch 3 times, and then
  • On the last repitition (the 4th) HOLD THE STRETCH
  • Hold the last stretch for anywhere from 20 seconds to a minute, then move around

 

 

If you liked this post please “like” and share it!

Subscribe here and on YouTube for new posts every Monday.

For personalized help with head to toe pain issues, click here to schedule a private Skype consultation with Elisha Celeste. SUBSCRIBE below and get $15 off your first session.

TFL Release for Relaxed Hips and Low Back Pain Relief

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I know some of you have waited a long time for this! I had to get creative because I didn’t want to give you something that was already out there, nor anything that’s only minimally effective.

I’m happy to report I was able to come up with something that mimics what I do with my private clients REALLY well.

TOOLS:

You will need some kind of pole, preferably a hollow one, and a tennis ball.

A few words about commonly used tools and techniques for TFL release: I have seen (and tried) all the commonly used ways to target the TFL, including using a foam roller, a lacrosse ball on the floor or against a wall, a baseball on the floor etc.

I was never impressed with ANY of these methods or tools because it was always my experience that a) it was VERY difficult to accurately find the correct spot and stay on it, and b) because of the nature of HOW these techniques must be performed (lying on your side on a mobility tool), I always felt like my body weight was SQUISHING my TFL far too much to allow for a true pin and stretch release. Remember: massaging a muscle, rolling around on it or compressing it to “melt” the soft tissue is NOT what I teach; here on Mobility Mastery I’m always trying to mimic what I do with my private clients, which is a pin, release and stretch of the fascia.

I am so happy I’ve finally figured out how to address this in a way that mimics what I do with my private clients! For those of you who have been using the other methods, I’d LOVE to hear from you if you try my way out. I think you will love it.

Why release your TFL?

In my 8 years of working with fascia for pain relief and mastering mobility, I’ve never seen the fascia within the TFL play the primary role in what I call a “pain pattern.” (Low back pain, knee pain, hip pain etc). Meaning…it is never my go-to ONE area of the body to target, if I were limited to choosing only one area to release. Obviously, in my office with clients I’m never limited to one thing, so I always check the TFL and release it when necessary, and it often does play a role in a lot of pain patterns.

Generally speaking, I’ve found it to be a key peripheral player that definitely needs attention, but usually after taking care of the primary players (which could be the quads and hip flexors, the IT Band fascia, the adductors, etc).

I won’t be going into detail for all the pain patterns that include the TFL (we’d be here all day). I will be talking about it’s role in low back pain, so if that’s you please read that (below) before trying this technique.

If you are NOT in pain and simply want to free your hips and feel even better than ‘normal,’ then what are you waiting for?! Go after it.

If you ARE in pain:

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How to Hike to Prevent Pain and Preserve Energy

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This is a post for my fellow hikers, backpackers and mountaineers.

Best explained in the video, but here is a little bit of additional information:

Body mechanics through any sport are important, and hiking is no exception. Most of us don’t pay attention to our form or body mechanics while hiking because it’s not typically a “sport” where we’re competing or going for time or distance; most of the time we’re just out there to enjoy nature, summit a mountain or successfully complete a backpacking trip.

I started hiking the way I demonstrate in the video 4 years ago because of what I know about fascia, what causes my knee pain and because it just made sense to me anatomically as a way to prevent pain. I didn’t realize until a year or so later that I was doing something already in use with hikers and mountaineers, known as the “rest step.”

The rest step is used predominantly to help high altitude mountaineers maintain their energy and oxygen levels during sustained upward movement.

You can use the rest step for the above purpose, but I promote it mostly to prevent injury and muscle fatigue/soreness, whether you’re at high altitude or not.

When I make a conscious effort to hike this way I have little to no pain. I don’t even get SORE from a big mountain climb! And my energy levels are sustained throughout a trek.

Using the “rest step” for injury prevention:

The why and how:

This is a method of UPHILL HIKING. With each step uphill you allow your back leg to extend FULLY from your hip through your heel, while pausing for a moment, before continuing with the other leg stretching fully next time.

When you allow your back leg to extend fully and your body weight rests on that part of your skeleton for a moment, ALL the muscle fibers and fascia in your back leg – the Achilles, calf muscles (gastrocnemius and soleus), popliteal fascia (back of your knee) and hamstrings – get an active stretch while the front leg gets to rest.

Doing this in a continuous manner up a hill or mountain is a lot like a dynamic stretch routine (my favorite way to stretch), and though you’re certainly “working” your body, your fascia gets to lengthen while the muscles are allowed to rest.

At the same time, if you STAND TALL and USE YOUR GLUTES to power you uphill instead of your quads, you will be using the largest muscle in your body (the gluteus maximus), which will SAVE your quads and hip flexors from overuse. AND: you’ll sculpt a better booty, and who doesn’t want that?!

The science behind this method:

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Running & Downhill Hiking: it’s NOT the Pounding or Impact That is “BAD” For Joints – it’s THIS

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Are you one of the many people who thinks that the “pounding” during running or the “impact” of downhill hiking is bad for your joints?

I used to think this too! It was drilled into my brain on a very visceral level when I had to hike 7 miles downhill on a “bad” knee and by the time I got to the bottom I had TWO bad knees (click here for that story). I believed the terrain was the problem and I didn’t hike again for 6 YEARS! Now I know better.

With SO many people experiencing pain on the downhill, or pain through impact sports like running, it’s logical to conclude that the sport or the terrain are “bad” for your joints.

I’m here to tell you it is NOT the pounding, impact or downhill that is bad!

I never would have believed this myself had I not experienced first hand being unable to run or hike for 8 and 6 years respectively, only to find out I can hike ridiculously steep 14ers here in Colorado (mountains above 14,000 feet), even run down them, without any pain at all – if I take care of my body before going out there.

The downhill and running are NOT the problem; they simply highlight what is already dysfunctional or unhealthy in our bodies.

If you are someone who normally does NOT have pain unless you try to run or hike downhill, and only during these activities you experience foot or ankle pain, shin splints, knee pain or hip pain, then chances are…

Your fascial system has lost its SPRING!

Our body is made up mostly of fascia, and that fascial system’s make-up is like a giant web that is meant to be elastic and flexible, able to absorb impact for us while helping us ‘spring’ out of sports such as running.

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