Glorious Foam Rolling
Rolling Out The Pain With A Foam Roller
I’ve tried a lot of things to help reduce muscle soreness, and I think I finally found the key ingredient… foam rolling.
What the heck is that, you ask? Well, 6 months ago, I wasn’t even sure what it was. But I saw one at the Physical Therapist that I was going to and she told me that nearly all strength conditioning facilities have a variety of foam rollers in different lengths and consistencies.
Apparently, injury prevention and treatments like massage, Muscle Activation (MAT), and Active Release Therapy can work wonders for injured athletes. Where we use to focus on isokinetics and electronics, we now focus on massage-type care. The success of physical therapists who use massage techniques and MAT, has put the focus back on the muscle. All athletes need a good masseuse!
Enter the Foam Roller
Foam rollers are the poor mans massage therapist. As strength and conditioning coaches and personal trainers watched athletes continue to attribute some of their success to “sports massage,” you knew someone somehow and someway would figure out a way to mass-produce a massage for athletes. Enter the foam roller.
Physical Therapist Mike Clark is the one credited with introducing the foam roller and coining the term “self-myofascial release (otherwise known as self-massage). He made it simple – buy a foam roller and use your bodyweight to apply pressure to sore spots.
So, How do You Use It?
A foam roller is simply a hard, circular foam that looks like a rolling pin or one of those “pool fun-noodles,” only it’s larger and more dense. The techniques can vary but Clarke suggested it be used more the accupressure – applying pressure to sensitive areas in the muscles (sore spots) which are usually called trigger points or knots.
You are suppose to use the foam roller to search for trigger points and to roll these areas to decrease density and muscle-soreness. The major areas that respond well to the foam roller are the calves, adductors, quadriceps, TFL, hip rotators, hip flexors, and glutes.
As a general rule, 10 slow rolls or 30-45 seconds of settling are done to all the different muscle groups (although there are no hard and fast rules for foam rolling). I will sometimes just roll and settle on trigger points until the pain goes away.
If you’ve ever had shin splints, runner’s knee, soreness in the front or back of the thighs, soreness in the deep hip or gluteus region, or soreness in the IT Band, while stretching is great, you might want to invest in one of these foam rollers. I love stretching and it definitely has its benefits, but stretching doesn’t work out the knots. In fact, when stretching a muscle with knots, you are only stretching the healthy muscle tissue – the knot remains a knot.
And since the best way to attack a troublesome muscle knot is direct pressure, a foam roller could become your best friend.
Key Points for Specific Foam Roller Exercises
1. Roll back and forth across the painful area for 30-45 seconds.
2. Spend extra time settling directly on the knot or trigger point
3. Roll the injured area 2-3 times per day.
4. Avoid rolling over bony areas.
5. Always stretch the area following foam rolling.