“The only way to gain strength is by exercising.”
I saw that line again just the other day in a LinkedIn discussion panel.
We’ve all heard it, and there is some truth to it: Exercise does build strength—but that assertion doesn’t tell the whole story. Our bodies constantly perform a balancing act to create functional movement, specializing at helping us maintain whatever posture we choose to inhabit the most.
However, small fixations and inhibitions in muscles, joints and fascia can keep a muscle, or section of muscle, weak to prevent further injury. When the body signals it needs to protect itself from injury or pain, the muscle action will reflexively collapse even under the light pressure of a muscle test, keeping it from full activation and full strength.
So, I’m not referring to the kind of weakness that exercise is designed to combat. I’m talking about specific muscle weaknesses where the body feels fixated or inhibited somewhere in the complex of muscle, fascia, nerve or joint.
Because every person’s body mechanics suffer when muscles stay weakened, it is in each person’s self-interest to find and resolve these fixations. Massage, chiropractic, osteopathy and various forms of stretching and yoga are some of the most common bodywork methods. But sometimes we need something quick, painless and not dependent on another practitioner. Quick Self Fixes are self-treatments developed to answer this need.
Target Weak Muscle Areas
Quick Self Fixes are a series of self-care techniques that exactly target the muscle areas that
are most commonly weak in most adults, as determined by clinical experience. I practice Quick Self Fixes on myself, and I teach them to clients and other therapists. They enable me to use better body mechanics, enhance my strength in places I might need a little extra help, and empower me to take care of small issues before they become large problems.
For example, I have personally experienced how one pectoralis major fix stretched my acromioclavicular joint and instantly both eased my ability to perform push-ups and doubled my count. Other health professionals see similar results.
“Using these fixes allows for more balanced movement and better and more complete muscle recruitment,” said Lyndzey Dare, a CrossFit, gymnastics and weightlifting instructor, who has evaluated her clients before and after Quick Self Fixes.
Common results of practicing Quick Self Fixes include increased strength, dissipated pain, increased range of motion, increased balance and an improved ability to perform a movement. When all the fixes are practiced, many people report a renewed sense of flow.
“This work helps integrate mind-body connections as we become consciously aware of how differently we hold our bodies after muscles are newly made strong,” said Maggie Alfieri, massage program director at the Atlanta School of Massage in Atlanta, Georgia, where Quick Self Fixes are part of the training program. “That is especially noticeable when starting with massive, quadrant-wide weakness, such as all the hip flexors or all the shoulder muscles.”
Make Space Many Ways
It’s all about making space. Different fixes create space in different ways. We don’t always know exactly how this happens—case studies are being conducted on Quick Self Fixes, but large-scale studies have not been—however, person after person has reported that an area feels more secure internally after it tests stronger.
It feels like Quick Self Fixes restore the body’s neural communication and innate fluids—blood, lymph, interstitial and cerebral spinal—to the area.
Stretching joints and muscles certainly feels like making space, but making space might also mean decompressing a fascial restriction, encouraging fluid back into an area, taking pressure off a nerve, or perhaps changing the responses of mechanoreceptors, proprioreceptors and Golgi tendon organs to reactivate a more positive link between brain and body.
Cassius Camden Clay, D.C., an Atlanta-area chiropractor, developed Quick Self Fixes from the practitioner-based disciplines mentioned above. He has been in practice more than 35 years, incorporating kinesiology, muscle testing and Thai massage-style stretches into his private practice. He has also taught more than 265 continuing education workshops on assisted yoga postures, including Thai massage for the massage profession, which is how I first met him in 2007.
I started studying this functional and structural approach to muscle testing and assisted yoga with Clay on a weekly basis, learning first the assessment technique now called Targeted Muscle Testing. Quick Self Fixes evolved from the desire to find self-sustaining ways to strengthen the weak muscle tests found via Targeted Muscle Testing.
Use Fixes with Clients
While the fixes are designed to be self-treatments, many can be incorporated seamlessly into a massage session, where they increase therapeutic results and client satisfaction. Quick Self Fixes that are rooted in massage, stretching, proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation or craniosacral techniques are well within the massage therapist’s scope of practice, as are those rooted in reflex, acupressure and neurolymphatic points.
Sometimes a muscle will need more than one fix, so multiple fixes overlap areas. Often fixes will need frequent repeating over time for the body to learn how to stay strong.
I often tell clients, “Your body may need 100 fixes to hold this new strength, but only one from me and the rest from yourself.”
Because Quick Self Fixes are both quick and portable, the client is more likely to perform them herself. Muscle testing clients before and after the fix shows clients whether the fix works for them. The one caveat is that no fix (or test) should be done to the point of pain or in cases of acute trauma. If all the possible fixes fail to strengthen the area, have the client consult a doctor.
5 Quick Self Fixes to Try Now
1. Cranial Fix
This fix stems from craniosacral and osteopathic techniques. It targets the upper trapezius and deltoid muscles, but can often strengthen many muscle tests body-wide. It is a very light touch—no more than a nickel’s weight—of splayed fingers on both sides of the head, making contact to the skin over five skull bones: frontal bone, parietal bone, temporal bone, sphenoid bone and occipital bone. The first four bones meet in front of and slightly above the ear; that meeting point is a powerful healing point (often active in migraines). The fix is simple: Hold your relaxed fingers lightly against both sides of your head with one finger over each of the bones for about 10 seconds. People will often sway slightly as this fix takes effect.
2. Biceps Brachii Fix
This pin-and-stretch fix targets the long head tendon of the biceps brachii muscle, whose origin tendon can become fixated within the acromial and bicipital groove areas of the anterior shoulder.
Let the target arm hang loosely at your side, hand touching your anterior thigh. Using the thumb of your left hand, firmly but not painfully pin the bicipital tendon just below the humeral head medially toward your chest.
Hold this firm pin, and gently flip your arm and shoulder joint into external rotation. Your hand will end behind your body, thumb pointing back. As you flip the arm, you will feel the tendon move under your thumb. It is also helpful to feel your scapula drop as the latissimus muscle exerts a downward pull on the humerus.
3. Latissimus Dorsi Fi
This fix stems from the Touch for Health Kinesiology Association’s neurolymphatic point for the latissimus muscle. However, these reflex points are located between ribs 5 and 6 and ribs 6 and 7, just below the pectoralis major muscle and in line with the nipple. On women, it is under the bra strap, medial to the Spleen 17 acupressure point.
Look for one or two sore points on either side of the anterior rib cage and massage each point between the ribs in a small circular motion for 10 seconds. It should become less sore in that time. Do not massage directly on the rib bone.
Strengthening latissimus dorsi is a great, quick fix for combating hunched-over postures, and it is very important for maintaining good body mechanics. Sometimes I use it mid- session to re-enable strength. I also find it can temporarily relieve some upper trapezius discomfort.
4. Shoulder Fix.
This fix stems from a chiropractic adjustment and is not in the scope of massage therapy to perform on someone else, but it is a safe self- stretch of the rotator cuff insertion tendons. It strengthens muscle tests for supraspinatus, infraspina- tus, subscapularis and teres minor.
Hold the fully bent arm of the targeted shoulder close by your ribs and use the other hand to hold under the elbow. The targeted arm’s hand may rest on your chest or opposite shoulder. Use the hand holding the elbow to softly push the targeted (passive) humerus up into the acromial joint, taking out all slack in the rotator cuff. Hold in that place to make sure there is no pain, then use the hand on the elbow to make a very small, extra lift of the targeted humerus straight up into the glenohumeral joint.
There is very little actual movement in that final lift, yet it can relieve a lot of shoulder dysfunction. Some people may even hear a click. If the lift is both needed and successful, the shoulder will immediately feel a lot freer and show increased range of motion.
5. Liver Fix.
This fix stems from visceral massage and osteopathic techniques. Manual stimulation of the liver may stimulate its detoxification activity, and particularly strengthens pectoralis major and middle trapezius muscle tests. Because of its body- wide function, the Liver Fix often strengthens other muscles, too.
If you have fragile ribs, osteoporosis or osteopenia, do not do this fix. While standing or lying down, use the left hand to pin up and under the right rib cage to hold the liver stationary. Curl the fingers of your right hand to make a soft air pocket over your palm. From a height of about 6 inches, rhythmically tap your right hand over your lower right rib cage and liver in a diagonal approach for 10 to 15 taps. Each tap should create a resonating vibration in your liver. Be gentle and do not cause pain.
About the Author
Barbara Sharp, L.M.T., is a licensed massage therapist in Marietta, Georgia, with 21 years of experience. She found Targeted Muscle Testing, Quick Self Fixes and assisted yoga postures from Thai massage so helpful that she expanded her class note-taking skills into writing three full curriculums to help others have a written resource to learn from and reference. Quick Self Fixes and Targeted Muscle Testing are approved by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork for continuing education.