“Don’t be a pussy – man up!” The hidden cost of “masculinity” in sports and modern culture

* Please note I am aware that the phrase “Don’t be a pussy” may be offensive to some of you. My intention with this article is to shed light on part of modern culture that is very much alive, and this phrase is still widely used among men to shame other men or boys into being tough. While there may be another article that could go into the female side of this equation, that’s not what this post is about. If you’re sensitive to this phrase, maybe skip this article.

When I first met Stefan (my man), the conversation quickly turned towards sports, movement, healing and my work with fascia (since yes, as cliché as it is he asked what I do, and when I replied with “I step on people to get them out of pain” he was instantly intrigued, as most people are!)

He was really open about his own physical struggles (of which there were a great many), and curious what I could tell him about how to heal.

Probably the greatest bond we have is that we’re both fascinated by the human struggle, by pain and healing, consciousness, evolution, movement and optimizing human performance.

Naturally, I wanted to show off and work on him, but I wasn’t expecting what happened when I did. His body responded unlike anybody else’s I’ve ever worked on.

He wasn’t shy about telling me what wasn’t working for him; and the way I usually work on people wasn’t working for him and his nervous system at all. We had to slow waaaaay down so he could find his breath; he needed to move very slowly; he needed me to add the weight gently otherwise he would panic involuntarily. I felt like I was walking on eggshells! Yet, this was not a man who couldn’t “tough it out” when it comes to pain. Quite the opposite.

He had one of the most inflamed, adhesed IT Bands I’ve ever worked on, with fascial “knots” the size of large grapefruits from knee to hip! Every square inch of this man’s body was full of adhesions: big and small throughout his legs, back, arms, abdomen, neck…everything was rigid and restricted and full of balled up fascia.

He got instantly “high” from the work, and experienced a correlating catharsis; but it didn’t budge any of his pain. Why?

It would take more than a year for us to truly “get” why he couldn’t heal, and – it makes so much sense now.

I’m betting there a LOT of men (and women) who have experienced something similar to Stefan. Maybe you’re one of them. We decided to write this blog post together in the hopes it will shed some light on an epidemic of silenced pain and cultures that shame its expression and make no room for healing.

Stefan grew up in Texas, where sports are a way of life.

He started playing basketball at age 5, and played soccer, football, tennis and basketball competitively through junior high and high school.

Most of his coaches used the drill sergeant method to train these boys, so Stefan learned from a young age to silence his own wisdom when it comes to pain, and simply pushed through while being yelled at; or he would volunteer to take a beating (over running) if punishment was required.

Did you know that in some places in Texas they still use the paddle all the way through high school as a way to “discipline” kids?

I can’t believe I’m even writing this, or that this approach is still being used on kids today! I was never spanked myself, let alone beaten with a paddle at school.

Stefan has shared a great many disturbing sports stories with me, but there is one in particular that can illuminate what this culture is all about, what it taught him and who it told him to become if he was to be accepted and celebrated instead of shamed and punished.

In his own words:

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Why I NEVER Recommend Foam Rolling The Low Back (And What To Do Instead)

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If you are currently experiencing low back of ANY kind:

STOP FOAM ROLLING YOUR LOW BACK

I never ever recommend foam rolling the low back (for any reason), but if you’re experiencing low back pain then this is so important.

Why?

Here’s the short version:

Low back muscles (and the thoracolumbar fascia) generally take care of themselves when you take care of whatever it is that is causing them distress. What is causing them distress is typically something in the leg fascia (brought on by sports, lifestyle and habits). Occasionally there is a shoulder dysfunction that can cause low back issues but most of the time it’s in the legs. The point though, is that THE PROBLEM IS NOT THE BACK ITSELF, and going into the low back with a foam roller can make things a lot worse.

In addition, there are a lot of nerves in the low back region and not a lot of “meat” (generally) to absorb your weight (look at the picture over there), so you could cause nerve irritation or damage; and I DO NOT recommend rolling over your lower rib area or spine for ANY reason either.

Basically – there isn’t much reason to foam roll here AT ALL, and if you are in pain there is significant risk of causing more distress or more pain.

The long version:

This is the story of how I came to these conclusions.

When I first started working with people in pain (by “stepping on” them; I am NOT a massage therapist, so if you’re curious about exactly what I do you can click the link) I knew that when it came to back pain the cause was something in the legs. I never touched people’s backs.

One of my favorite things in the whole world is solving puzzles. When I first got started, every client that came to me was like a new puzzle to solve because I hadn’t yet figured out all the various types and causes of low back pain. (These days I’m rarely stumped, but happy when I am because it means I get to learn something new and help even more people!)

Over the course of several years (from 2008-2013) I gathered a lot of data that led me to the pain patterns I’ve discovered (what causes what), and nearly all of my low back pain clients were getting complete relief (often in ONE session!) but a question remained in my mind:

What about the back itself?

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