Can you imagine living well into your 90s and being able to eliminate virtually all of the aches and pains that you may develop from time to time?
Ninety-six-year-old Bonnie Prudden, a longtime physical fitness advocate, stays pain free — even though she has arthritis that led to two hip replacements — by using a form of myotherapy (“myo” is Greek for muscle) that she developed more than 30 years ago.
Now: Tens of thousands of patients have successfully used this special form of myotherapy, which is designed to relieve “trigger points” (highly irritable spots in muscles) that develop throughout life due to a number of causes, such as falls, strains or disease.
By applying pressure to these sensitive areas and then slowly releasing it, it’s possible to relax muscles that have gone into painful spasms, often in response to physical and/or emotional stress. A simple process: Ask a partner (a spouse or friend, for example) to locate painful trigger points by applying his/her fingertips to parts of your body experiencing discomfort — or consult a practitioner trained in myotherapy.*
If you’re working with a partner, let him know when a particular spot for each body area described in this article is tender.
Pressure should be applied for seven seconds (the optimal time determined by Prudden’s research to release muscle tension) each time that your partner locates such a spot.
On a scale of one to 10, the pressure should be kept in the five- to seven-point range — uncomfortable but not intolerable.
The relaxed muscles are then gently stretched to help prevent new spasms.
If you prefer to treat yourself: Use a “bodo,” a wooden dowel attached to a handle, and a lightweight, metal “shepherd’s crook” to locate trigger points and apply pressure. Both tools are available at BonniePrudden.com for $8 and $39.95, respectively.
For areas that are easy to reach, use the bodo to locate trigger points and then apply pressure to erase them. For spots that are difficult to reach, use the shepherd’s crook to find and apply pressure to trigger points.
As an alternative to the specially designed tools, you can use your fingers, knuckles or elbows on areas of the body that can be reached easily. Common types of pain that can be relieved by this method… **
Finding the trigger point: Lie face down while your partner uses his elbow to gently apply pressure to trigger points that can hide along the top of the shoulders and in the upper back. If you are very small or slender, your partner can use his fingers instead of his elbow.
Place one of your arms across your back at the waist while your partner slides his fingers under your shoulder blade to search for and apply pressure to additional trigger points. Repeat the process on the opposite side.
While still lying face down, bend your elbows and rest your forehead on the backs of your hands. With his hands overlapped, your partner can gently move all 10 of his fingers along the top of the shoulder to locate additional trigger points.
Pain-erasing stretch: The “shrug” is a sequence of shoulder exercises performed four times after myotherapy and whenever shoulder tension builds.
From a standing or sitting position, round your back by dropping your head forward while bringing the backs of your arms together as close as possible in front of your body. Extend both arms back (with your thumbs leading) behind your body while tipping your head back and looking toward the ceiling.
Next, with both arms at your sides, raise your shoulders up to your earlobes, then press your shoulders down hard.
Finding the trigger point: Lie face down while your partner stands to your right and reaches across your body to place his elbow on your buttocks in the area where the left back pocket would appear on a pair of pants. For seven seconds, your partner should slowly apply pressure to each trigger point — not straight down but angled back toward himself.
Repeat on the other side. If the pressure causes slight discomfort, your partner has found the right spot! If not, your partner should move his elbow slightly and try the steps again. Two to three trigger points can typically be found on each buttock.
Pain-erasing stretch: Lie on your left side on a flat surface (such as a bed, table or the floor). Bend your right knee and pull it as close to your chest as possible.
Next, extend your right leg, keeping it aligned with the left leg and about eight inches above it.
Finally, lower the raised leg onto the resting one and relax for three seconds. Perform these steps four times on each leg.
Finding the trigger point: The trigger points for hip pain are often found in the gluteus medius, the muscle that runs along either side of the pelvis.
Lie on your side with your knees slightly bent. Using one elbow, your partner should scan for trigger points along the gluteus medius (in the hip area, roughly between the waist and the bottom seam of your underpants) and apply pressure straight down at each sensitive spot for seven seconds.
The same process should be repeated on the opposite side of your body.
Pain-erasing stretch: Lie on your left side on a table with your right leg hanging off the side and positioned forward. Your partner should place one hand on top of your waist and the other hand on the knee of the dangling right leg.
This knee should be gently pressed down eight times. The stretch should be repeated on the opposite side.
*To find a practitioner of Bonnie Prudden’s myotherapy techniques, go to BonniePrudden.com. If you are unable to find a practitioner near you, call local massage therapists and ask whether they are familiar with the techniques.
**Check with your doctor before trying this therapy if you have a chronic medical condition or have suffered a recent injury.