What is Muscle Pulsing?
A pulse is a tempo-guided wave of pressure that travels from one point on a muscle to another. Unlike other myofascial techniques, the pulse uses varied levels of pressure instead of uniform force while maintaining constant contact with the tissue. This not only gives the muscle an opportunity to adapt to the pressure, but it also allows an understanding of the condition of the targeted tissue.
The pulse gradually introduces pressure to give individualized attention to each part of the tissue. Pulsing uses your “feel good” intensity which is a pressure level that falls somewhere between “that feels really good” and “ouch that hurts.”
Pulsing tight muscles or joints (vs. foam rolling) helps you avoid:
- triggering tension in the area you’re targeting
- applying too much pressure
- holding your breath
- feeling unwanted next-day soreness.
PULSE MANTRA: “Pressure doesn’t have to hurt to be effective.”
Pulsing provides immediate relief to dehydrated, congested tissue. Why? Pulsing reintroduces fluids (water, minerals, blood, and more) to targeted areas. This influx of fluids re-hydrates the tissue to relieve congestion and increase the circulation of vital minerals and nutrients.
Three pulse takeaways:
- You control the intensity of your pulse.
- The pressure of your pulse doesn’t have to hurt to work.
- The more relaxed the targeted muscle, the more effective your pressure.
Why Pulse? Mobility, Hydration, and Pain Relief
- When you pulse, individual parts of muscle receive the specific level of pressure that each part of the muscle needs. This is important because different portions of a muscle can tolerate certain levels of pressure while other portions of the muscle may be more tender and therefore more sensitive to small amounts of pressure.
- Pulsing uses your “feel good” pressure which is somewhere between “wow that feels great” and “ouch that hurts”. Pulsing is best when the intensity of your pressure is a 7 out of 10 on the pain scale. Staying below the “that hurts” threshold is the most efficient and effective way to gain a positive response from the tissue you’re targeting and debunks the myth that muscle therapy must hurt to work.
- Employing the pulse’s gradual pressure allows time to locate dehydrated tissue and then methodically follow the tightness you’re targeting by tracing each muscle line.
- Pulsing encourages taking two “passes” on each muscle line. This means you target the same tissue two times in a row—first working away from the heart then working back towards the heart. The first pass introduces the tissue to pressure. The second pass garners the greatest results because the tissue is primed and can handle more pressure.
- When pulsing, the tool never loses contact with your body. This connectivity helps your mind, body, and the targeted muscle relax as you travel along the stressed tissue. There is no jerking or rubbing—just a smooth, undulating wave of pressure.
- You control the pressure and monitor how each part of the muscle responds. Based on your body’s response, you then increase or decrease your pressure. Gradual pressure avoids triggering your body’s flight or fight response.
- Pulsing incorporates the breath into pressure. When pulsing, it is important to remember that your breath plays a key role in relaxing your body. If you’re holding your breath or breathing heavily, chances are you pressure is too high and your targeted muscles and surrounding muscles will be stressed. The pulse encourages deep inhales and exhales to work with your body and through your pressure.
Tight Muscles? Rehydration is Key
When a muscle is congested, it is unable to contract or stretch fully. This inability to perform slows your body’s movements and affects the amount of force the muscle can produce. The re-hydration properties of the pulse increase the amount of tissue available for use by releasing the constricted tissue. This returns the tissue’s ability to generate force, relax, and stretch. With more usable tissue, the muscle’s performance, strength, endurance, power, flexibility and dexterity are enhanced. When the muscle is free from constriction, it doesn’t hurt when contracted, the joints surrounding have more mobility, the tissue has increased pliability, and the area is less susceptible to injury. Pulsing is the technique that every body needs.
Pulsing Gives You the AHHH without the OUCH!
When you pulse, you do lots of wonderful things to relieve muscle and joint discomfort. With this approach, you avoid many of the pains typically associated with muscle therapy. Here are some of the big “ouches” that pulsing helps you avoid.
Sharp pain. This usually occurs when we press into tender tissue too quickly. When your body experiences this pain, its first reaction is to fight—that is protect the tissue. This “fight” is a physical response manifesting as an involuntary contraction of the muscle. If you apply pressure to an area that is protecting against the pressure, you are more likely to damage the tissue.
How the pulse addresses sharp pain: Pulsing avoids triggering sharp pain by using a slow, gradual pressure. However, if you experience sharp pain during any form of self-muscle care, pause your pulse to stay on the spot but lower your pressure as the pain subsides. A little pressure goes a long way and moving slowly is critical to keep your muscles happy during your self-care routine. Abruptly moving off of the tissue can damage the tissue or strain other areas of your body. The ease into it-back off-and-maintain light contact approach allows your body to relax and transition out of the protective mode until the sharp pain has subsided.
Traveling or referral pain. This occurs when you apply pressure to one area of your body and another part of the body experiences its own pain. For example, you apply pressure to your leg, and your back begins to ache. While uncomfortable, the pain in the secondary area provides a lot of useful information (i.e., the area you’re targeting needs attention PLUS the area experiencing the referral pain needs attention PLUS the areas around the referral area need attention). For example, if you’re targeting your trapezius and the pressure on your traps refers pain to your neck, this means that your neck, deltoid, upper back, and pectoralis may ALSO need attention.
HOW THE PULSE TARGETS REFERRAL PAIN: While pulsing doesn’t avoid referral pain, the tempo and cadence of the pulse gives you an opportunity to work slowly into the tissue triggering the pain so you can follow along the specific path it’s referring. The varying depth of your pulse lets you continue without aggravating that area.
Throbbing pain. This occurs when pressure is constantly applied to an artery. Arteries are the vessels in our bodies that transport blood from our heart to the rest of our body. These vessels are interwoven around our muscles and unintentionally are pressed on during self-muscle care.
HOW THE PULSE AVOIDS THROBBING PAIN: The pulse incorporates both the gradual introduction and removal of pressure which reduces the chance of holding constant pressure over an artery. However, if you experience throbbing while pulsing, lower your pressure and more to the next part of the tissue using light pressure until the throbbing has subsided. To avoid triggering throbbing pain when revisiting that area, explore other angles to target the same tissue.
Stinging, burning, or shocking. Each one of these occurs when too much pressure is applied to a nerve. Much like your arteries, nerves are also interwoven throughout your body and are directly affected when applying pressure to muscle and other soft tissues.
HOW THE PULSE AVOIDS STINGING, BURNING, OR SHOCKING: Pulsing addresses these sensations quickly and safely by dictating that you lower you pressure intensity and re-direct your pressure into the surrounding area. Not only will you dramatically lower the nerve sensations, you affect more tissue.