There are so many pieces of equipment out there at outrageous prices, but sometimes the inexpensive ones are the most useful. Here are my top 5 most useful self care exercise devices for under $30 everyone needs at their home today.
1. Foam Roller
The foam roller is one of my all time favorite pieces of equipment to have at the home and it is probably for a completely different reason than you might think! The foam roller is world known for its ability to help with myofascial releases and to “help break up adhesions and scar tissue”, which is very widely debated among the rehabilitation/research community. However, in a society where we tend to sit for a majority of the day, many of us end up with a posture resulting in a forward head, rounded shoulders, and a rounded upper back. This foam roller is absolutely perfect to help with this problem! If you lay on the ground with the foam roller across your upper/mid back (shoulder to shoulder), you can brace your core and interlace your fingers behind your neck to support your neck and head. Extend your back over the foam roller to produce an extension through your thoracic spine (mid back) and open up your chest. In order to correct your rounded back posture, you first must increase your mobility! After this you can lay on the foam roller so that it is positioned long way on your back from your tailbone to the base of your skull. Here you can perform a snow angel type motion with your arms, which will help stretch out your pecs (pectoralis major muscles), further opening your chest, and increasing your shoulder and upper/mid back motion.
The lacrosse ball is another great piece of equipment for increasing your mobility. Two of the most common places on the body we use these in the physical therapy clinic is for a posterior rotator cuff release and at the posterior hip. The post cuff release is done by placing the ball on a trigger point (a tender spot) on the back of your shoulder against a wall while moving your forearm toward and away from your body by rotating your arm in and out only moving at your shoulder joint. One of the other places we use this is for a piriformis release. This is a muscle deep to your glutes. You can also perform this against a wall, rolling it around until you find another one of these trigger points. For this you will want to stay on this point on your glute/posterior hip for about 10-20 seconds as the trigger point should begin to disappear. Another area on the body you can use this is by rolling it on the bottom of your foot to help reduce foot pain (although I believe a frozen water bottle usually does the trick here). Lastly, the sub occipital release. This involves taping two lacrosse balls together so they become the shape of a peanut. Place the balls on the back of your head right at the base of the skull while laying on your back on the floor. This helps to release the tension of the muscles meeting at the top of the neck and the base of the skull, which may help release some tension and possibly decrease some stress/tension headaches.
While the first two devices are great for increasing your mobility, it is extremely important to train your new motion with strengthening and stability type exercises. This is where the theraband comes in. My ultimate favorite exercise with the theraband is side steps, or sumo steps. This is where the band is located around your ankles, (or feet if you have the strength) and step sideways with your knees slightly bent and toes pointed straight forward. This exercise targets the lateral hip musculature, mainly the gluteus medius. This is the muscle that lets you stand up straight on one leg, helps support your knees so they don’t collapse into valgus (inward toward each other, which is a common position to tear your MCL and ACL in your knee), and disperse forces to reduce pressure off both your back and knees. This is a great exercise to strengthen one of the main stabilizers at your hip, but you can also move the band to your wrists or elbows to help strengthen the stabilizers of your shoulders too! Once the band is at your elbows (or wrists to increase the challenge) place your hands against a wall in a pushup position, press into the wall with both hands, and walk on the wall with each hand (one at a time) as if you were reaching for the numbers around a clock. This is a great way to strengthen your rotator cuff muscles, which are some of the main stabilizers of your shoulder (glenohumeral) joint.
The kettlebell. One of the most diverse and under appreciated pieces of equipment. It comes in all different weights and can help with so many different strengthening motions. You can do squats with it at your chest to help increase your resistance and depth of a squat, pick it up from the floor (with good body mechanics) to strengthen the motion you use to pick up your child or grandchild, strengthen your hamstrings with Roman deadlifts, strengthen your core and glutes with kettlebell swings, or even work on shoulder stability with turkish get-ups or presses. The possibilities are endless with this one.
This self release, self massage tool to help reduce knots, tension, and pain in your neck and back, and is perfect for the home or office. This will get those hard to reach places when you have been sitting for a long period of time with forward, rounded shoulders, and need to workout that knot that has suddenly developed. This is a completely passive tool (which I am not a huge fan of passive treatments), but following this up with the correct stretches and exercises might just be exactly what you need to help reduce pain and keep powering through at home or work. Most typically, people develop tension or stress in their upper trapezius muscles near the neck, and between their shoulder blades (rhomboids, mid trapezius, and weakened lower trapezius muscles) with this type of desk work. The theracane, or lacrosse balls if you are near a wall, can help with this. Especially if paired with some rowing type resistive exercises, and stretches for the posterior (back) of your shoulder and pectoralis minor stretches, or the anterior (front) of your shoulder.
These are just a few of my favorite, inexpensive exercise/rehabilitation tools to have at the house, and I hope you find this useful! If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out and ask.
Disclaimer: This post is written for entertainment purposes only and should never be used as medical advice as exercises and treatments are always evolving with current research. If you believe you have pain, a medical problem, or any other potential impairments, please call your local Physical Therapist or any other medical provider.