Foam Rolling

How It Works

Myofascial release is a body work technique in which a practitioner uses gentle, sustained pressure on the soft tissues while applying traction to the fascia. This technique results in softening and lengthening (release) of the fascia and breaking down scar tissue or adhesions between skin, muscles and bones. Foam rolling uses deep compression to help roll out these adhesions, or knots, that develop over time.

The superficial fascia is a soft connective tissue located just below the skin. It wraps and connects the muscles, bones, nerves and blood vessels of the body. Together, muscle and fascia make up what is called the myofascia system. Think of your myofascia system as a shoelace. It has a certain length to it. If it gets in a knot and you pull both ends of the shoestring, the knot gets tighter. You need to work the knot out with your fingers to restore the original length of the shoelace. The same goes for myofascia system. Sometimes stretching is not what you need. By working out those knots in the muscle, which often arise from inactivity or repetitive activity, you’ll be able to restore the muscle to its original length, thus making it more pliable and functional.. For various reasons including disuse, not enough stretching, or injuries, the fascia and the underlying muscle tissue can become stuck together. This is called an adhesion and it results in restricted muscle movement. It also causes pain, soreness and reduced flexibility or range of motion.

Myofascial release has also been shown to relieve various muscle and joint pains such as IT band syndrome and shin splints as well as improving flexibility and range of motion.

Foam rollers are inexpensive and with a bit of experimentation you can target just about any muscle group. The latest style of foam roller, the Grid Foam Roller, has a unique design and construction that provides a more targeted trigger point self massage.

Technique

You can use the foam roll for all your major muscle groups. Glide your body over the foam roll to work each area individually, such as the backs of your legs or your lower back. Pause at any tender points for 10 to 30 seconds before moving on to the next region. Only apply as much pressure as you can tolerate and build up the amount of time you spend foam rolling. Your muscle tissue will begin to get used to this new sensation and be more and more willing to accept the new form of self massage that you’ve implemented into your routine.

Benefits

Foam rolling is like a massage. The compression causes your nerves to relax, loosens muscle, increases blood flow, and helps your body recover. In other words, foam rolling can alleviate sorenessand make your muscles feel better.

When to Use It

You can use a foam roll anywhere or anytime. Many people enjoy rolling while watching television or before bedtime. Others do it at the start or end of a training session or after sitting in the same position for hours. Don’t limit yourself to the areas targeted in your training program. Use the foam roll anywhere you feel tight and in need of a massage.

What It Feels Like

You’ll probably enjoy the foam roll routine—everyone likes massages. Still, there’ll be some uncomfortable moments, as there would be during a professional massage. The first time you use a foam roll, it might be a little painful, but that’s just a sign that you stand to benefit greatly from using it. Once you’re past the first few weeks, though, it’ll get considerably easier and more comfortable. The foam roll is a great barometer of the quality of your muscle and connective tissue. The better it feels, and the less it hurts, the higher the quality of your tissue.

Alternatives

In a pinch, you could use a basketball instead of a foam roller. Tennis balls and lacrosse balls are also effective, but foam rolls are better suited for beginners since they’re less dense. The massage stick is a great tool to use in conjunction with a foam roll. For example, you may want to use a massage stick when traveling, or to more closely target tight areas, while using the foam roll at home or in the gym for a general massage all over.

Categories: Chiropractic