Professional dancers, athletes and others say a self-massage technique called the M.E.L.T. method relieves chronic pain and helps strengthen the body. But what is it?
Sue Hitzmann created the M.E.L.T. method. It involves a series of self-massage exercises using balls and small rollers. These exercises release what Hitzmann calls “stuck stress” in the neurofascial system, or the connective tissue and nerves surrounding our muscles, joints, nerves and tendons. If this stress isn’t released, says Hitzmann, it can cause the connective tissue to become dehydrated, which leads to muscle stiffness and soreness, and can eventually cause injuries and chronic pain.
M.E.L.T. focuses on what Hitzmann calls the 4 Rs: reconnect, rebalance, release and rehydrate. First, before doing the exercises, you reconnect with yourself to assess where you feel pain or tension. After the exercises, you reconnect once again to see how you feel. Rebalancing involves core strengthening exercises, which, according to Hitzmann, are unlike any other core routine: these exercises focus on the neurological core, she says. Next come releasing and rehydrating, which come when you perfom more exercises: your stress releases, and your connective tissue rehydrates, helping to increase blood flow and keep your body from being injured.
The M.E.L.T. series of exercises focuses on the hands, feet, neck, and lower back.
M.E.L.T.’s website lists several doctors who have reviewed the program and given it their seal of approval. A Reuters article on the method quoted orthopedic surgeon Dr. Nicholas DiNubile as saying M.E.L.T.’s not a new idea, but that it can “be an effective way of getting blood flowing through the muscles and tendons… I do it myself, with little balls, when my body is tight.” DiNubile is skeptical of Hitzmann’s claims that M.E.L.T. can improve sleep quality and increase longevity: “I have an open mind, but would still like to see science behind [those] claims.”
You can visit a M.E.L.T. instructor for a session, or buy the rollers and balls yourself, which come packaged with an instructional DVD. DiNubile suggests you see an instructor if you can: “Don't underestimate the skill that's needed for hands-on body therapy. [Self-treatment] will not take the place of a professional."
Whether you see an expert or do it yourself, Hitzmann recommends you follow the M.E.L.T. method a minimum of 15 minutes a day, three times a week. She says it’s safe to do every day if you like, and advises that you combine it with a traditional workout: “MELT before strength training to improve muscle performance or after a cardio workout to erase joint compression and stiffness.”
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