The BOOMSTICK has changed the way I treat myself and others like no other tool or piece of therapy equipment on the market. The BOOMSTICK is a 10kg piece of steel that looks like a small barbell and is used on trigger points and fascial restrictions to reduce pain and increase flexibility.
It allows you to comfortably apply a significant amount of pressure deep into the soft tissue to “release” trigger points. The knurling element is designed to offer a sheering component to break down further adhesions in the fascia.
The intimidating knurling in the middle and the shiny steel resembles that of a heavy barbell only strong men should use. When people see it for the first time their physical reaction usually is eyes widening, an uncomfortable shuffle, followed by questions such as “what is that!” and “you’re gonna use that on me?”.
The BOOMSTICK was brought to the market by the Mad Scientist Chris Duffin and his company Kabuki Strength. He’s a Powerlifter, an owner of a Powerlifting gym and a seriously strong guy. I think I came across Chris from a YouTube video where he introduces the BOOMSTICK to Dr. Kelly Starett. Kelly is someone that has changed traditional therapy for the better with MWOD and getting his stamp of approval and endorsement should be enough for any therapist to purchase one. Take a look.
How does the BOOMSTICK work?
Chris has been in the industry for a long time which allows his anecdotal evidence to justify his training and therapy methods. When you’ve seen thousands of the same problem go away with one method, then this is good evidence. However, if we can find some research to back up the anecdotal reasoning then bonus!
The BOOMSTICK’s main purpose is to hit and release trigger points reducing “tension” and increase range of motion. Technically this would be called Myofascial Trigger Points (MTP) and there are numerous books on this subject most notably Travell and Simons “Bibles” covering everything trigger point. The BOOMSTICK also affects the fascia, nerves and other soft tissue structures as you can’t just affect muscle without X-Ray vision.
The BOOMSTICK allows you to get into places which are usually difficult to work on. A perfect example is the subscapularis. This guy is responsible for internal rotation, adduction of the arm and stabilizing the head of the humerus in movement. So anything in the overhead position will improve when working on this muscle!
Its tucked away on the anterior aspect of the scapular and using fingers to palpate can be excruciatingly ticklish! The BOOMSTICK allows for less tickling due to a broader surface area. It will also allow you to stay on this muscle for the time needed for a “release” with the added bonus of not putting your fingers into a stinky armpit!
What is a Myofascial Trigger Point (MTP)?
A MTP has some specific characteristics listed below, but in layman terms think of a knot in the muscle which is tightly contracted and you can feel it when you run your fingers over it.
Characteristics of a MTP include:
A persistently hard muscle
Pain on palpation
Pain when not palpated
A taut band of muscle
Usually found in the belly of the muscle
Altered motor firing patterns
Pain at the site, distal from site or referred pain
How a trigger point is formed is unknown, however altered activity of the motor endplate, or neuromuscular junction has been suggested due to overuse, injury of postural problems. Basically, your muscle seems to be “on” or more “active” when resting which results in an area/muscle in a constant contraction. You probably don’t even realize you have one until you get poked and prodded. This is called a holding pattern; the position our body holds.
For those that want it here is the scientific wording:
"Local myofascial pain occurs because of the release of substances from damaged muscle, such as adenosine triphosphate (ATP) , bradykinin (BK), 5-hydroxytryptamin (5-HT, serotonin), prostaglandins, and potassium (K+), and from the extracellular fluid around the TrP, such as protons (H+), from the acidic milieu, which occurs in ischemia and in exercise. These substances activate muscle nociceptors. They also induce the release of calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) from the motor nerve terminal and from the muscle nociceptors, which in turn increases motor endplate activity."
A normal healthy muscle should feel SUPPLE, SOFT, ELASTIC and NOT TENDER
How does a Trigger Point affect me?
When a muscle is trained incorrectly a MTP can form leading to a reduction of blood flow, restriction in range of motion, reduced lymph drainage and impaired strength. Injury, poor posture, bad lifting technique or biasing one muscle group over another is a big culprit.
There was one study which looked at scapular movement before and after some trigger point treatment. The results showed that when trigger points were present there was a delay and inconsistent activation of the upper traps and deltoids muscles recorded by EMG.
All of us play host to trigger points and I still have my fair share. The most common sites where you would use the BOOMSTICK are:
Subscapularis (and the rotator cuff)
How to find them?
Using your palpation skills (skill of touch) will help you accurately bullseye the MTP, then from there, you can fan out with client feedback to other MTP’s. When your touch skills are not expert level, then client feedback will guide you accurately.
How to get rid of them?
The best way to get rid of trigger points is through acupuncture, dry needling or ischemic compression. When I say ischemic compression, I mean BOOMSTICK time. Ischemic compression is where the pressure is applied to an MTP for a significant amount of time before a “release” and softening of the muscle is felt. Traditional use of fingers and elbows don’t allow enough pressure to be applied consistently for long periods of time.
When working with more dense individuals like male and female athletes as well as deeper muscles like the glute minimus, a significant amount of pressure is needed by the therapist. The client should feel some discomfort initially but over time with sustained pressure the pain subsides.
Using fingers and elbows is tiring work that after 2 minutes you want to rest. This is where the BOOMSTICK is a gamechanger. The thing already weighs 10kg and all you have to do it hold it on someone to get a healthy dose of pressure.
WARNING: too much pressure will ensure the client tenses up like they’re about to be punched by Mike Tyson and you’ll never get past the tensed up muscle. Having a relaxing environment will help:
Spending 2 minutes on a specific MTP is usually enough to defuse the sucker, but a good 5-8 minutes in and around the original MTP should be standard. You should feel a softer muscle after.
Using the BOOMSTICK
The example I gave of the subscapularis above is a perfect one due to its difficult location. Test the client's flexibility in shoulder flexion AND EXTERNAL rotation. Work on the subscapularis with the BOOMSTICK as suggested with the timings above, and then retest their flexibility.
You’ll find that the external rotation component overhead has significantly improved. The client will feel a smooth movement and less restriction. Try to get the same effect with your elbows and fingers on the other side and I assure you the BOOMSTICK wins every time!
Is there anything else like the BOOMSTICK?
In my experience I have not found anything that comes close to the effectiveness of the BOOMSTICK. There are tools out there such as lacrosse balls, Theragun, sticks and other objects which are self-massage, but you can't replace having someone else work on you. FACT. To be totally effective with MTP's you need to totally relax to get into the muscle which is difficult when you're holding a plank position on a ball.
BOOMSTICK in action
I use the BOOMSTICK with pretty much every client restriction issues. Its just so effective and the results speak for themselves. I'll be posting some videos on my YouTube Channel on everything BOOMSTICK. I am looking forward to ordering the PAIN PILL, the BOOMSTICK's bigger heavier (20kg) brother!
REFERENCES (I've done 3 degrees where I had to use Harvard referencing. This my website and I will just put the titles of papers here. Feel free to contact me for them :-))
A critical overview of the current myofascial pain literature
The basic science of myofascial release: morphologic change in connective tissue
An expansion of Simons’ integrated hypothesis of trigger point formation
Differential activation of scapular muscles, during arm elevation, with and without trigger points
Latent myofascial trigger points: their effects on muscle activation and movement efficiency
The effect of manual pressure release on myofascial trigger points in the upper trapezius muscle
Etiology of myofascial trigger points
Understanding effective treatments of myofascial trigger points