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Brian Schiff’s Blog

Injury Prevention, Sports Rehab & Performance Training Expert

Tag: trigger point therapy

Soft tissue tightness and restriction in the latissimus dorsi is a common problem in overhead athletes, throwers, weight lifters and Crossfit participants.  I often educate clientele on self myofascial release techniques using a trigger point ball or foam roller. But, I also like using a partner technique with the Stick.

Begin in standing grasping the frame of a squat rack.  You may also elect to hold both handles of a TRX.  Next, slowly squat down and lean back allowing the shoulders to move into flexion.  Once in position, the trainer or workout partner will use the Stick to apply pressure and roll up and down along the latissimus especially working on the soft tissue near the shoulder.


Perform this technique for 30-60 seconds and then switch sides.  Adjust pressure and location based on feedback from the client.


This exercise allows for soft tissue work in a stretched position for the muscle.  Alleviating tightness and myofascial restrictions will be especially helpful for pitchers, swimmers, tennis players and those frequently engaging in overhead squats, snatches, and other overhead lifts.  Optimal shoulder mobility will lower the risk of impingement.  in addition, adequate shoulder mobility reduces stress on the lumbar spine as lumbar hyperextension is a common compensation seen for poor shoulder mobility.

If a training partner is unavailable to perform this specific technique, consider using a tennis ball while standing with one arm elevated overhead and leaning into the ball.  Position the elevated arm/side of the body against the wall, and move the body/ball to perform compression and rolling over the latissimus.  Following soft tissue work, doing some active mobility exercise is recommended.

Click here to read an earlier blog entry and see an effective mobility drill to improve your lat flexibility.

I work with many runners in our clinic.  I often see restrictions in the soleus.  While the running community is warming up to soft tissue mobilization, many runners are still resistant to embrace it routinely and engage in it more so only when they are hurt or lacking flexibility.

STM (soft tissue mobilization) should be part of every runner’s maintenance program.  Why?  Simply put, repetitive stress takes its toll on the body.  Rolling or releasing the tissue increases blood flow, eliminates trigger points, and facilitates optimal soft tissue mobility and range of motion.

In the diagram below, you can see common trigger points in the soleus.  The X represents the trigger point & the red shaded area is the referred pain caused by the trigger point.


In the case of the soleus, restricted dorsiflexion could lead to other biomechanical compensations with running.  Initially, this often creates a dysfunctional and non-painful (DN) pattern.  Over time, this may eventually become a dysfunctional and painful (DP) pattern forcing runners to seek medical care.  The terms DN and DP come from Gray Cook’s Selective Functional Movement Assessment (SFMA).

The gait cycle is certainly altered from dysfunction in this muscle.  If ankle joint dorsiflexion is compromised (a common effect of soleus restrictions), there can be increased strain on the quads and altered movement in the hip.  Overpronation and excessive hip adduction and internal rotation are common compensations seen with running.  Other signs and pathology that may be associated with a soleus trigger point may include:

  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Heel pain
  • Shin pain
  • Knee or hip pain
  • Back pain

As such, restoring mobility is important.  A recent study revealed that immediate improvement in ankle motion can be attained with just a single treatment (click here for the abstract).

So how do you effectively resolve soft tissue issues in this area?  I suggest using a foam roller or better yet the footballer and baller block in the Ultimate 6 Kit for Runners by Trigger Point (see pic below)


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