Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Working with the Theracane

The theracane is an incredible tool. It allows you to deep-massage places that you would not be able to do by yourself.

In this post, I will demonstrate some ways to use the theracane on four areas: the scalenes, the muscles in the back of the neck and head, the muscles under the arm, and the spinal muscles.

Before we get started, a word of caution... It is easy to get really carried away with the theracane. You might start really digging in, and later end up very sore. You might even end up with bruises. (Ask me how I know.) So, it is a good idea to go easy in the beginning. You will learn how much pressure to use on each area as you continue to practice.

Also, it is a good idea to have a layer of clothing of some kind between you and the theracane, especially when you are working more sensitive areas.


In a previous post, I demonstrated how to work your scalenes (muscles deep in the side of the neck) with supported fingers as the tool. It is also possible to work many of the scalenes with the theracane. It is a good idea to have worked them with your fingers first, so that you have an idea of where they are located, how the trigger points feel, and how much pressure to apply.

Start out with the theracane upside down. Place one hand on the ball at the end of the curved area. This will be your "anchor hand." Place the other hand up on the straight area, somewhere between the two handles. This will be your "guiding hand."

One hand on end of cane.
Alternatively, you can place the guiding hand on the lower handle. You may find that this gives you even better leverage.  
Guiding hand on lower handle.

Experiment with positioning your guiding hand until you can easily push the small knob into your scalenes. The idea is to use as little effort as possible and to let the leverage of the theracane do the work.  

Working scalene with theracane.

Change position for the fourth scalene.

In position to work fourth scalene.
Bring one hand up and place the other on the ball at the end of the theracane (not shown in picture). Press up on the bottom of the theracane to put pressure on the working knob. You may want to put your upper hand on top of the closest handle for more leverage.

Working fourth scalene.

Muscles in back of neck and head

As usual, do not press directly onto the bones of the spine. You are fine to gently press on your skull, however.

There are several layers of muscles in the back of the neck and head, some of them very small. Using one of the small knobs of the theracane can be an effective way to work these trigger points.

To work these muscles, bring the theracane to the back of the neck with the curve of the theracane extending forward. Bring the higher small knob to the back of the neck, holding the theracane in the middle of the curve on one side and just in front of the ball at the end of the stick on the other.

You can work the points by pressing the theracane forward, or you can hold the theracane stationary and lean your head back into the theracane.

Working the back of the neck.
You can use even less effort by bracing the theracane handles into the back of a chair, and leaning into the knob. I sometimes do this lying down in bed also, but you must be extremely slow and gentle when you lean back. I have had times when I had a headache, that I put the straight part of the cane (between the knobs, or right in the curve) right where the back of the head starts to curve (in the suboccipital area) and leaned back into it. It made it possible for me to get to sleep when nothing else worked.  

Brace the theracane "handles" against the back of the chair.

Muscles under the arm 

The muscles under the arm can be hard to get to and they are very important. Many of them are also quite tender, so go very, very easy.  

First, place the theracane in front of you with the curve extending back. Place the knob at the end of the curve, under your arm.  

In position for working under the arm.
Holding the end of the theracane with one hand, grab the top handle with the other hand.  

Ready to work the trigger points under the arm.
Use the leverage of the theracane to work the trigger points under your arm.  

Working trigger points under the arm with the theracane.
Side view.

Spinal muscles 

The theracane is particularly useful for getting the muscles right next to your spine.  

Get in position by bringing the theracane behind you with the curve extending forward.  

Getting in position to work the spinal muscles.
Place your arm behind the theracane on the straight end, in a place that is comfortable for your size body. In my case, it is between the lower handle and the end knob.  

Place your hand behind the theracane.
Place the top small knob of the theracane onto either side of the spine. (Never use the theracane directly on the spine.)  Slide the theracane up and down searching for trigger points. Then work them as you find them. Most of these will be quite small, so your stroke will be shorter and more focused.   

These are just some of the ways that you can use the theracane.


  1. I learn so much from each post! It's nice to see that some things I've stumbled on blindly are right--and to get additional tips I hadn't thought of, like using the cane on scalenes.

  2. Love this post-- the scalene are a really challenging area for me esp the anterior scalene. Thank you for the information!

    1. You're welcome!

      I agree that the anterior scalene is a harder area to work. I personally think it is easier to work it using my hands as tools (I have a post from last October called Scalenes that describes this), because it is necessary to move your sternocleidomastoids out of the way to get to it properly, especially at the top.

      I hope to post more information on scalenes in the near future. I will focus on perpetuating factors: things that can make things worse for the scalenes and suggestions for preventing trigger points in the scalenes.

      Thanks for your comment.