Send patients home with self-management tools to improve outcomes and relationships, and make adjustments and rehab much easier

Many chiropractors are keen to provide patients with self-care tools that they can use to continue their care after they leave the clinic. Over the years, the most common tennis ball is the one that many sports coaches also travel with and advise their clients to roll around on the floor for muscle pain relief.

I started using them in my practice and soon every patient was leaving my office with a “tennis ball program”. It was an easy and inexpensive way to get patients to work on areas with myofascial restrictions from the comfort of their home. Compliance was good and definitely worked – previously narrow areas in the patient’s erector or gluteal muscles returned more loosely, making patients happier and treatment easier.

But soon the limits became apparent. The tennis ball was far from optimal. It was a ball, so you couldn’t apply it directly to your spine as the spinous processes didn’t go anywhere – it would just hurt, and under load it would compress and lose its shape.

Then the truth dawned – a tennis ball is made for tennis!

A self-care tool for the human body

A number of self-care tools have been specially developed for the human body. Features to look for here:

  • The heatability improves the circulation of blood and lymph tissue Assist in the release of accumulated waste and activation of the patient’s parasympathetic nervous system;
  • Cold to reduce inflammation, accelerated recovery and general pain relief;
  • Tools with finger-shaped tips Provide deeper tissue penetration and the correct elliptical shape for better body support.
  • And on some tools, recessed spinal grooves Walk around the center to allow for the spinous processes and allow direct release of the spine.

Empowering patients

Like many chiropractors, physical trainers are often physically overwhelmed with treating patients and lack time for comprehensive PT. Speaking to the head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey club, we discovered a similar situation, and he soon began using self-care tools that became a take-away hit with professional players. Instead of the coach doing the job, they gave the product to the players, who were then empowered to handle a significant portion of their problems themselves. Soon the entire team was using the products and the news spread to other sports teams too.

“Some of our players use the products and really like them,” came a call from the NBA’s Toronto Raptors coach. “We’d like to try it out with our team.”

Training of trainers

Being invited to train the coaches of professional sports teams is a great experience as the coaches are passionate about the idea that players can free up their own tight spaces, reducing the physical workload of the coach. As manual therapists, the trainers are also keen to feel the effects on their own body pain.

The trainers were impressed with the depth of tissue release and the simplicity of the whole process – a patient could literally just relax for three minutes in one place and let the weight of their body do the work. So easy.

Additionally, the coaches liked the product’s small size and portability (they were used to lugging large rolls of foam around airports) which made it perfect for players to use anywhere, anytime on the street. The trainers went shopping.

The self-care products have been added to each player’s personal kit. A second order for the products was requested from the team, with the trainer saying, “The women took the first batch when the players brought them home.”

Now teams from the NBA, NHL, MLB, and NFL are using the self-care tools.

Can chiropractic patients train themselves?

Chiropractors understand the importance of providing patients with tools to keep tight muscles and joints open between sessions. While books and seminars were created on patient use of the self-care tools, the practitioners themselves were the real driving force behind the products sold worldwide.

A physical therapist in Hong Kong developed a great technique for releasing the psoas muscles. A yoga teacher from Burlington developed a simple technique to loosen calf muscles. A protocol for treating lower back pain has been developed in which the patient lies on the front with the self-care tool under the pubic hair to achieve a posterior opening of the L5-S1 joint.

Information like this is now gathered in self-care phone apps, so patients can sit back and click on the painful part of the body using their phone screen and simply follow the videos. Patients can now train themselves, with technology enabling no doctor ever to spend time training a patient to use self-care tools.

Put into practice

Self-care tools are an important offering for chiropractic clinics to develop patients who return more relaxed to the clinic for easier treatment. Self-care tools also let patients know that they are taking care of their wellbeing away from the office, which translates into long-term relationships and wellness care.

MICHAEL A. COHEN, DAc, DC, has been a practicing chiropractor and acupuncturist for 29 years. He believes we have underestimated the patient’s ability to heal themselves, and he encourages patients to responsibly explore their abilities in this area. He developed the Acuball self-healing tool (acuball.com) for the relief of muscle and joint pain. He can be reached at drmacohen@gmail.com.