High Gear: RAD massage and relief system for nagging muscle pain | SummitDaily.com

High Gear: RAD massage and relief system for nagging muscle pain

There's something so ridiculously satisfying about a foot massage.

For a few years now — ever since I spent two months in a walking boot after breaking my tib-fib — I've tried to set aside a few times per week to roll out my feet on a lacrosse ball. A ball's not quite like human hands, and after my dog put teeth marks in it the thing never rolled the same, but just 10 or 15 minutes per foot with that ball worked legit miracles. I'd roll it across my arches, ankles, heels, toes — you name it — and feel tension release as high as my hips and low back. It's like that old nursery rhyme: the foot bone's connected to the leg bone, the leg bone's connected to the knee bone, the knee bone's connected to the thigh bone…

You get the point. Our bodies feel and work best when all those interconnected parts are thrumming in harmony, and something as obnoxious as tension in your neck can be traced to something as far away as tight hips. Here in crazy-active Summit County, just about everyone suffers from tight hips thanks to skiing, snowboarding, hiking, climbing and generally living in the mountains. There's nothing like a massage for relief, but I doubt if most of us can afford daily (or even weekly) massage appointments.

What if you could do it all on your own? Full release for the body's many moving parts is the idea behind RAD, a line of athletic massage and release products from Denver-based founder Dan McIntosh. He's a chiropractor by trade and triathlete by serious hobby (he nearly made the 2016 U.S. Olympic team), and so he knows a thing or two about pain and posture, and how the two affect athletic performance. He works closely with Julie Wu, a brand ambassador and expert on how best to use RAD's several products, and they've found converts in Summit: former pro snowboarder Leslie Glenn, the folks at Meta Yoga Studios, On The Hill host Z Griff.

"For athletes, the biggest parts (for pain) are hips and everything connected: hamstrings, knees — everything that's connected in the lower body," Wu said. "Those take most of the impact."

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I can attest to that. Over the years, my knees, hips and ankles have taken more of a beating than just about anything other than my head. To get started, I asked Wu how the RAD system — Roller, Helix, Rod, Block and Rounds — can help with the sometimes sharp, sometimes dull pain I get in my right heel. It's the nagging leftover from those two months in a walking boot, and when it flares up in a snowboard boot, it feels like hot wire wrapped around both ankles and stretched across my Achilles. It comes and goes, but when it flares up I can feel pain through my arch and even into the back of my right knee.

Wu said I was smart to begin with a lacrosse ball, but that rolling out my feet only solved a part of the problem. The foot bone's connected to the leg bone, the leg bone's connected to the knee bone…

"You might be working on something in your low back or upper back and feel relief in your quads or hips," Wu said. "Everything is connected."

I needed to think beyond the foot and see the whole picture if I really wanted pain relief. For Summit locals, including myself, Wu suggested starting with a few basic areas: hips, low back and shoulders. All three carry tension that's related to posture, and the overarching idea of the RAD system is to improve posture through release, massage and, like yoga or other mind-body regimens, awareness.

"Once people bring awareness to their posture and slouching, they'll automatically stand up," Wu said. "RAD Rollers help bring awareness to what your body is doing."

It's true. When I rolled out on a lacrosse ball, I only had so many options, and I'd usually sit down halfway through. With the signature RAD Roller — think of it as two connected lacrosse balls — Wu told me to stand up with my chin back (aka good posture) when rolling my feet. She wanted me to put full body weight into the release, and then keep moving the Rollers up my body to my hips, low back and spine.

Rolling the balls along my spine and shoulders was intense with full body weight, but after just five minutes I felt loose. Even my feet felt better. I then switched to the Helix, which looks like a foam roller crossed with an hourglass. It's softer and larger than the Roller for gentler release on the back, legs and IT bands, but I was most impressed at how well it rolled along my spine. The hourglass shape is said to be anatomically inspired, and I believe it. I could spend 20 minutes slowly going between low back and shoulders, back and forth, back and forth, until I can feel that tension dissipate everywhere — for an hour or two.

And that's the thing: like any massage, the RAD system is a temporary solution. It's made for relief, not reversal, and so it won't forever get rid of pain from past injuries. That's the price we pay to play in the mountains, but I'm glad to know there's a way to get away from it all — even if only for an hour or two. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got arches to roll out.

RAD system

Think of the massage and release system from RAD as foam rollers on steroids: five pieces made to pinpoint pain just about anywhere on your body. Go online to the sports section at SummitDaily.com for video demos of all five products.

RAD Rounds: Sets of smaller rubber balls in three levels of hardness made for specific release in small areas like feet, neck, hands and ankles.

RAD Roller: Two attached rubber balls at three levels — soft, original and stiff — made for pinpoint massage and release on feet, spine and neck.

RAD Rod: A rigid steel roller rod with soft covering made for rolling out large areas on quads, calves and more.

RAD Helix: A foam roller inspired by your body’s contours made for gentler release on back, spine, IT bands, quads and more.

RAD Block: A two-in-one storage block and mount for rollers and rounds. It helps with pinpoint release on glutes, calves, upper arms and pecs.

Got soap?

The RAD system is made to get dirty. Just wash with soap and water to keep all pieces fresh. For more info about the system, including user manuals for each item and video fitness guides, see RadRoller.com.