A lot of what we use as Therapists is research driven however experience counts just as much. Several years ago I accepted a position at Queens University as their Assistant Athletic Therapist working with the varsity athletes. With their off and on season training in the gym, plus practices and games, there were a lot of broken and sore bodies in the clinic. I remember talking to some of the football players, stressing the importance of prehab (preventative rehabilitation) and the importance of foam rolling and mobility work. Next thing I know, I start to see them walk by the clinic with their backpacks on and their foam roller strapped to it. Once they started rolling post workouts, practices and games, all of a sudden they were able to manage their pain better, and get throughout the season without having to visit me so much.
So what exactly is foam rolling and why would you want to do it? Foam rolling is a form of selfmyofascial release which is a fancy term for self-massage to release muscle tightness or trigger points. While there are some great modalities out there in the fitness and rehab world, one of my goto’s is still foam rolling. By applying pressure to specific areas on your body, using a foam roller, you are able to help in the recovery of muscles and assist your body in returning it to normal function. In short, foam rolling increases blood flow to your muscles and creates better mobility, which helps with recovery and improves performance. It can also help recover from DOMS (delayed onset of muscle soreness) and reducing tightness by applying deep pressure. Reducing tightness stimulates receptors in the nervous system, which takes the brakes off of tight tissues. The deep compression allows normal blood flow to return and the restoration of healthy tissue.
The technique to foam rolling is to apply moderate pressure to a specific muscle or muscle group using the roller and your bodyweight. You should roll slowly, no more than one small area at a time. When you find areas that are tight or painful, pause for several seconds and relax as much as possible. You should slowly start to feel the muscle releasing, and after 5-30 seconds the discomfort or pain should lessen.
When foam rolling try to stick to about 15-20 passes over a small area before moving on or time it to about 30 seconds per area. Getting to your roller about 3-5 times per week performed on a consistent basis will help to achieve and retain the chronic effects on flexibility. If you are an active person or even an athlete, foam rolling is best performed after your training or even the next day. Remember, If an area is too painful to apply direct pressure, just shift the roller and apply pressure on the surrounding area and gradually work to loosen the entire area.
Here is a sneak peak of a couple areas to foam roll and directions. For the complete how to video go to our YouTube channel. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DfyJk7ruxA0)
Glute Med/Hip External Rotators:
Place the roller sideways. Sit on the foam roller with your legs bent in front of you. Feet flat on the floor. Place your hands on the floor behind you. Lean to one side and roll back and forth. You can cross your one foot over your opposite knee. Lean to the side that is crossed over. E.g. if left foot is crossed over right knee you will lean to the left and roll out left side.
Place the roller sideways. Lie forwards on the roller so that it is under the middle of the thighs. Arms will be bent in front of you on the floor so that you’re resting on your forearms. Roll up and down to get the Rectus Femoris. Then turn out and roll along the inside, just above the knee to get the Vastus Medialis. Turn the thighs inwards to roll along Vastus Lateralis.
Place the roller sideways. Lie so that the roller is underneath the arm pit. Bottom arm needs to be straight. Your legs will be bent, together and tilted to whichever side you are lying on. Lean slightly forward when rolling to get your pecs.
Adductors (inner thighs):
Place the roller lengthwise. Lay forward onto the floor, with one leg straight along the ground and resting on your forearms. Straddle the roller with the other leg, it will be bent. This is the rolling leg. The rolling leg should be at a 90 degree angle with the foam roller so that the roller is running perpendicular to it. Roll in small sections and slowly as this is a tender area. Roll from the top of the groin to just above the knee.
Please remember, foam rolling is not a pain tolerance test. The goal is to help restore mobility and healthy tissue. Sometimes this can take multiple sessions, and may also require a trip to your friendly neighborhood health practitioner. It can help with issues like Tendonitis, Sciatica, IT Band Syndrome and Patella Femoral Syndrome. However, if you have a history of dislocating an area you should avoid foam rolling this area.
Feel free to join me every Saturday morning from 9:30-10:00am for a stretch and mobility class at A Lyrical Body Pilates studio.
Dawn Robertson, RMT, CAT( C )