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Massage Therapist in a Bag

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As fall transitions to winter, I find myself in the rare position of having some time off between athletic pursuits. Many outdoor athletes, competitive or recreational, have downtime once or twice a year between their main games, and I recommend using the pause as a physical and mental break to give your body a bit of therapeutic attention.

This autumn, a new therapy tool I have been employing is from Trigger Point, an Austin, Texas, company that makes products that simulate a sports massage. In an ideal world, or if I were Lance Armstrong, I’d get real massages a couple times a week to work out the knots and tweaks that seem to be everywhere in my body. I’d visit an acupuncturist and a chiropractor to address my more acute issues when needed. But limited funds have me settled on the Trigger Point option instead, and I have few regrets.

Roll it! Chelsey Magness works out tension with a Trigger Point foam roller

The company’s Hip and Back Kit costs $159.99, and for that you get two rollers (one for calf muscles and one for quadriceps), two massage balls, a foam block, and comprehensive instructions with a DVD detailing how to use the products. It may sound pricey for an instructional DVD and pieces of foam, but the kit will fast pay for itself over trips to a local therapist.

I’ve used foam rollers like the Trigger Point products over the years, and I was at first skeptical of the price tag of this system. I knew I could purchase a cheap roller, yoga block, and tennis balls for a lot less. But would they be as effective? Trigger Point boasts that its tools are specially designed to have a “softer hand-like feel” and are more effective than traditional rollers and balls at restoring muscle elasticity. After a few months of use — and I did buy those tennis balls to compare! — I’d have to agree with the Trigger Point claim.

Trigger Point’s Hip and Back Kit

The Hip and Back Kit, one of several systems the company sells, was built around a type of therapy know as myofascial compression technique, or MCT. It is said to work to eliminate connective tissue restrictions in and around muscles and to relieve the so-called “trigger points” in the body that can knot up and cause physical stress or pain.

In my use, rolling and pressuring the foam products under tired and stressed muscles at home, I felt like I was getting a similar treatment to what’s offered with some sports massage therapists. I followed the company’s instructions close and worked through some pain and tension during sessions with the kit a few times a week.

Instructional DVD offers visual procedures for recovery and pain

The Trigger Point products are nice quality, and they work. But what impressed me most was the company’s included instructional DVD. Far from just suggesting that a recovering athlete haphazardly roll around on whatever area hurts, the DVD gives the user an education on what is causing issues and how to specifically address common athlete injuries, both chronic and acute. There are sections on speeding specific muscle recovery and preventing future re-injury of the compromised muscle, tendon or joint.

The Hip and Back Kit cannot replace a good massage therapist. But the multi-piece product is a great substitute or surrogate for the real thing in between the time-consuming and pricey human procedures. Furthermore, the entire Trigger Point kit packs up small enough to fit in a corner of my carry-on bag to travel with me anywhere. I have yet to find a massage therapist who can do that.

—Bend., Ore., based contributing editor Jason Magness is a founder of the YogaSlackers group as well as a member of our ultra/multi-sport/adventure-racing squad, Team GearJunkie/YogaSlackers.

Trigger Point man! Anatomical chart identifies “trigger points” where tension and pain build up to cause injury, stress, or pain

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