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Foam Rolling Part 2 – For the Intermediate to Advanced

Foam rolling! Do you incorporate it into your routine? If not, here’s why you should!

So what is it?

Foam rolling is a form of self-myofascial release, or self-massage, to release muscle tightness or trigger points. This can also be performed using a tennis ball, massage ball, kettlebell or your own hands. By applying pressure to specific points on your body you are able to reduce muscle tightness which can aid in recovery and assist in returning your muscles to normal function.

Do you have tight muscles or trigger points?

Trigger points are specific “knots” that form in muscles. They are easily identified because they will refer pain. Pain referral can be described as the pain felt when pressure is applied to one area of the body, but the pain is felt or radiated in another area.

A common trigger point can felt when foam rolling your iliotibial band (ITB) as it causes pain to radiate up the hip or all the way down the leg to the ankle. It is to be expected that when rolling a tight area that you will experience discomfort or pain. Similar to the feeling you get whilst stretching, it should be uncomfortable, but not unbearable, and when finished it should feel better.

Why am I doing something that hurts?

For many, deep tissue massage is easy to understand. If someone is working out the knots in your muscles, it will commonly be an uncomfortable process and at times, painful. Self-myofascial release provides the user the ability to control the healing and recovery process themselves by applying pressure in precise locations, because only you can feel exactly what is happening.

Releasing trigger points helps to re-establish proper movement patterns and pain free movement, and ultimately, to enhance performance. Using stretching alone is not always enough to release muscle tightness, which is why foam rollers can be so beneficial. Imagine a power cord with a knot tied into it and then envision stretching the cord. This creates tension, stretching the unknotted portion of the muscle and the attachment points. The knot, however, has remained unaltered.

The goal for foam rolling, as it is for any corrective or recovery technique, is to get you back to the point of normal functioning, as if nothing was ever wrong.

What causes trigger points and tight muscles?

There could be several different factors contributing to tight muscles including training, flexibility, movement patterns, posture and stress. Generally speaking, our bodies are able to cope with what we throw at them every day. However, sometimes we can exceed our ability to recover via too many intense workouts, poor posture and other lifestyle factors. This is when using recovering techniques or through seeing a health professional can be extremely beneficial.

So how does self-myofascial release work?

Deep compression helps to break up or relax tight muscles and adhesions formed between muscle layers and their surroundings. If our muscles are not taken care of properly we can experience loss of flexibility, adhesions, and painful movement. This deep compression allows normal blood flow to return and the restoration of healthy tissue.

How do I know what to foam roll and how to do it?

Areas to focus on can be identified in two different ways.

  1. If you are performing a particular movement and are struggling with that then think about what type of muscle groups/areas are involved. For e.g., if you’re struggling performing a squat then it might be a good idea to start with your hip flexors and glutes (as well as other areas). If after using the foam roller your movement improves, you now have a strategy or routine to follow.

  2. Trigger points or tight muscles can also be found using self-exploration. For e.g., if during a stretching routine you find one particular area is tighter than others then you may like to incorporate some rolling for that section.

To foam roll properly, apply moderate pressure to a specific muscle or group using the roller and your bodyweight. When you come across a painful area, pause for several seconds and relax as much as possible. After about 5-30seconds the discomfort or pain should lessen.

If the area you’re working is too painful to apply direct pressure, you may like to shift the roller and apply pressure to the surrounding area instead, gradually aiming to loosen the entire area. The goal here is obviously to restore healthy muscles – it is not a pain tolerance test!

Never roll a joint or bone. Avoid rolling your lower back. Instead, target these muscles using a tennis or massage ball.

What happens after foam rolling?

As foam rolling is a form of soft tissue release, you may feel sore the next day. It should feel as if your muscles have been worked/released, however you should not push yourself to the point of excessive soreness.

For more information on the benefits of foam rolling please click here or contact us at Infinite Health Chatswood - Physiotherapy, Exercise Physiology & Massage to start foam rolling today!

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