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Why am I so damn stiff after pole?

We all know Pole is a very demanding sport and requires a pretty insane amount of upper body strength! It’s pretty obvious that due to this our bodies will ache from time to time. But something I’ve noticed recently after a quite intense training session is my upper back is completely riddled with knots. Who can relate to this? Not fun, right?

I wanted to understand why exactly this is and how I could prevent it so I did some research…

These muscle knots, commonly known as trigger points or myofascial pain, occurs from repetitive stress, overuse, poor posture or generally working a bit too hard at your sport. As our sport requires a lot of repetitive overhead movement, this will then be a common issue for pole dancers.

Michael Johnson, a UW Health Clinical Massage Therapist explains…

“It’s basically a specific localised area where the muscle is not relaxing like it should be. The tension in the muscle can put pressure on the nerves and cause pain”

So how can we prevent it?

Due to the nature of our sport, it may be hard to completely avoid however properly stretching out the muscles following a class or training session could dramatically reduce the stiffness. Lots of research nowadays indicates that holding stretches for 10-15 seconds may not be enough. So instead, hold stretches for around 3 minutes at less than your full range and this can induce much better responses in your body.

How can we treat it?

Trigger pointing and myofascial release is a great way to release tension. It is said that by putting pressure on a point for 10-15 seconds the blood flow is reduced and then once released the blood flow is increased to that area which helps the muscle to relax. You can do this at home using a hard ball like a tennis ball or a peanut massage ball which looks like two Lacrosse balls attached together.

For optimal results, this should be complemented with stretching so try adding a few light upper back stretches following your trigger pointing and myofasical release.

Another way to counteract stiffness in the back, especially if it is due to poor posture, is to stretch out the front. Try lying on a foam roller with the long bit parallel with your spine and drop your arms out to the side. Remember to hold for 3-5 minutes for the best results.

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