By Katherine Campbell, Certified Pilates Instructor
It is a rare Pilates client that doesn’t present some type of physical imbalance or movement restriction during their sessions, but there are some people that are so tight and weak that we can get no meaningful movement from the affected area unless we do some pre-Pilates work. I have dubbed this restrictive tightness “The Frozen Chicken Syndrome.”
I am not talking about areas needing light stretch, and I am certainly not describing serious injuries and conditions, or bone and joint problems (please see your doctor or other health provider for those). Frozen Chickens walk among us every day and sport shoulders worn as earrings, block feet, taut IT bands, necks that won’t turn, etcetera. Frozen Chickens can function fairly effectively with moderate pain, so they typically shrug it off as “I have always been like this.” You know who you are.
When A Chicken Can’t Dance
Tight/weak muscles bring us to fascia. Fascia, simply put, is the fibrous connective tissue that runs throughout your body, both inside and outside of muscles. Again, picture a chicken and the thin, almost transparent, white stuff that you can see under the skin and over the meat. This is an example of fascia on the outside of a muscle. Fascia does lots of slick things in your body but mainly it provides a gliding environment for muscles as they move, suspends organs in place, and helps transmit movement from muscles to bones.
Can you move the wing or leg of the chicken when it is frozen solid? No way. It’s the same with your body.
How to Thaw a Frozen Chicken
Paying for professional, myofascial release massage is one answer, and the treatment is wonderfully beneficial for most Frozen Chickens. But, professional massage can be inconvenient and expensive. What can you do daily on your own to help? How about liberating your captive muscles and fascia with some self-massage that you can do everyday, in as little as five minutes?
I have a whole basket of tools that I use at home and in class for muscular tension release. I try not to use my hands and fingers as those tire quickly and I sure don’t need to create more tension in my body. My favorite assistant by far is the Thera Cane®, a two-foot, green candy-cane with knobs and grips sticking out its length. The Thera Cane® is great for getting in to those hard to reach spots anywhere, especially on my back, neck, and shoulders. Soft and hard foam rollers are great to lie over at the end of a hard day in the office or studio, and helpful for use against a wall on areas that full body weight is too much, i.e. painful iliotibial bands.
There are at least half a dozen assorted small, smooth or spikey balls for my feet, hands, and shoulders (including some fancy ones that don’t work any better than the dryer and pink playground balls I got at the dollar stores!). The Stick® is an ingenious item that looks like its name. The Stick® packs easily in my cycling bag or suitcase: its rolling tubes are wonderful for long passages over legs, arms, hips and back. Of course, there are various knobby, handheld massagers and grooved rollers that I have collected from Christmas gifts and trips to the airport or mall kiosks. I usually find my small balls in the kids section of local stores, and the specialty items are either from my chiropractor’s office or online at Amazon.
Costco sometimes carries Miracle Balls® in the book section; the set comes with a small use book and is only about $11, so buy one for everyone you know. The nicest part of using the Miracle Balls is that you use them passively, allowing your body to melt over the balls. I have three sets that I place at the same time so that I can target my entire back, shoulder, and hip area during the same relaxing session.
Treat Yourself Everyday
Self-massage tools are tucked away on my desk and kitchen counters, in my car, bedside, and everywhere else I frequent so that I remember to use them. You can get most online or in local stores. Unfamiliar with self-massage techniques? YouTube has some great videos and I highly recommend the very informative “The Trigger Point Therapy Book,” by Clair Davies (New Harbinger Publishers, Inc.) Try reading anything by Eric Franklin if you like visualizations paired with simple exercises.
Try Before You Buy
I offer a great workshop of self-massage techniques on the foam rollers and small balls, including a take-home sheet of directions. Self-massage information and tools can be tested out during an Individual private session where we can truly customize what works best for your body, so be sure to ask for it when you book your next appointment.
Katherine Campbell is a STOTT PILATES® Certified Instructor with over thirty years experience in the health and fitness field. She is the owner of Springs Pilates, a fully equipped therapeutic Pilates studio located in the San Francisco Bay Area. You can reserve a Pilates personal training session with Katherine at www.springspilatespleasanton.com