by Charman Driver
I have a super-active lifestyle, so once in a while, I book a massage with a therapist to help ease tension and reduce pain in my overworked muscles. I stretch every day, but I dream of having a daily massage.
Then I learned about a new technique that lets you self-administer a massage that rivals the real deal. I know, I didn’t believe it either. M.E.L.T stands for Myofacial Energetic Length Technique, and according to its creator, Sue Hitzmann, it’s the first self-treatment technique for the connective tissue known as fascia that surrounds the muscles, blood vessels, and nerves.
From Hitzmann’s web site, (www.meltmethod.com), I learned that MELT is designed as a “hands-off” version of traditional massage. The idea is to bring your body to “a more ideal state” by increasing awareness, rehydrating connective tissue, and quieting the nervous system. “Over time,” she says, “you can transform how your body looks and feels.”
Instead of the therapist’s hands, you use small balls and a soft foam roller to apply pressure in a particular way that creates the same results as manual therapy.
Really? With my skepticism intact, I high-tailed it over to Rex Wellness Center and participated in a packed-full MELT class taught by Karin Singleton, one of a handful of certified MELT instructors in North Carolina.
Singleton donned a headset microphone that amplified her German lilt and allowed her to walk about the very full room, giving assistance where needed. In the dimmed light, we lay on our backs as she led us through a body assessment to discern where our imbalances were hiding.
I had quite a few: My left foot turned out as the right one pointed upward, my left shoulder blade felt higher than the other, and my left hamstring was throbbing (I had intentionally not stretched before this class).
I then lay along the length of foam roller, and with Singleton’s coaching, I gently rolled, twisted, and turned with small, controlled movements. It felt OK, but quite frankly, it didn’t seem like I was doing much of anything. Soon I was off the roller for the next assessment, and, to my surprise, my left shoulder blade felt lower and in line with the right one. Really?
I moved and rolled horizontally up and down the entire length of my body, from my neck to my hips. I even sat up on the roll to target the glutes, hamstrings, and all the muscles in between.
Again, assessment time: My hamstring pain was gone, and my neck and lower back felt decompressed, the way it does when I’ve had an hour-and-a half massage! The difference is that each movement took only a few minutes, and I did it all myself. This was for real.
Singleton says most MELTers report feeling “much better” after they’ve performed the technique. Looser lower backs, a greater range of motion in the neck, and better mobility in the hip and shoulder girdle are the most common results, she says. Foot problems can also be alleviated with MELT, she says, most notably plantar fasciitis. Arthritic hands, too, can gain greater mobility.
In the locker room after class, I spoke to Mary Regan, 71, who told me that both of her younger brothers had undergone hip replacements, and that she was beginning to have some of their same pre-replacement symptoms: her right hip was stiff and painful, and it felt as if the bones were pressing against one another.
Then she joined Rex Wellness and started MELTing twice a week. After three months, she can now straighten her leg, and has no hip pain. The improvement is great enough to allow her to do other exercises, too.
“I don’t think I could do what I do without MELT,” Mary says. “It sets you up to do everything you want to do, and do it the right way. It’s almost like magic.”