Foam rolling is a self-myofascial release (SMR) technique that is used by athletes and physical therapists to inhibit overactive muscles. This form of stretching utilizes the concept of autogenic inhibition to improve soft tissue extensibility, thus relaxing the muscle and allowing the activation of the antagonist muscle.
This technique can be effective for many muscles, including: gastrocnemius, latissimus dorsi, piriformis, adductors, quadriceps, hamstrings, hip flexors, thoracic spine (trapezius and rhomboids), and TFL. It is accomplished by rolling the foam roller under each muscle group until a tender area is found, and maintaining pressure on the tender areas (known as trigger points) for 30 to 60 seconds.
A common misconception is to use this technique for the iliotibial band. The iliotibial band is not a muscle but rather a fibrous reinforcement of the fascia lata. Currently, due to the recent rise of foam rollers, there is a lack of research completed on the effects of foam rollers.
Beginners runners are famous for shin splints and runner’s knee. Long-time runners work for their injuries. The most common injuries seen in experienced runners are muscle knots or “trigger points”. These injuries start as very minor micro-tears. Next, a repetitive tear-and-repair cycle causes a know or a trigger point to develop. The runner then starts to experience pain and stiffness in the area. Common trouble spots include: the front and back of the thighs, the deep hip region, and the outside of the thigh, known as the IT Band.
Stretching Is Not Enough
Stretching is necessary in a warm up. Stretching can help reduce the risk of contractures, sprains and can help people move better. If you stretch during your warm up, you are already off to a great start. However, stretching is simply not enough to prevent or even treat injuries. When stretching is combined with soft tissue work (using a foam roller or manual therapist, which is even better), it can help to further reduce injuries and provide other benefits
Stretching a tight muscle which has poor tissue quality can provide some relief, but it is not getting to the source of the problem which is the tissue quality itself. By doing soft tissue work, tissue quality can be improved upon and then properly stretched.
The best way to attack a troublesome muscle knot is direct pressure. A well-trained massage therapist can effectively apply pressure to break up and relieve muscle knots. These knots are pesky. It typically takes several treatment sessions to fix a well-placed knot. To make matters worse, these sneaky knots are famous for recurring again and again when you are least expecting it.
A Foam Roller Life
The best way to eliminate and prevent muscle knots is the foam roller. The foam roller is a firm foam log that is six inches in diameter. Use the roller against the muscle knots with your own body weight to generate the direct pressure. Imagine using a rolling pin to roll out lumps in bread dough. A foam roller is a good alternative to repetitive trips to the massage therapist. Your foam roller is always available and doesn’t accept tips! Bottom line: The foam roller is an inexpensive, yet highly effective way to treat and prevent the most common injuries seen in runners. Foam rollers can be purchased at sporting goods stores or ordered online for less than $20. A few minutes a day can help keep you on the road for years to come.
Foam roller massage can be useful even if you rarely find yourself in a squat rack. Flexibility and mobility become increasingly important to good health in your 30s and 40s, when your joints begin to lose some motion and lubrication, says Harold Millman, a rehabilitation specialist from the US.
No matter how old you are, a foam roller massage can do wonders to loosen up those knots in your body. Whether you’re an athlete or a desk jockey, you can benefit from a ride on a foam roller.
Key Points for Specific Foam Roller Exercises
1. Roll back and forth across the painful or stiff area for 60 seconds.
2. Spend extra time directly over the knot or trigger point itself.
3. Roll the injured area two to three time a day. For prevention of injuries, two to three times a week is recommended.
4. Avoid rolling over bony areas.
5. Always stretch the area following foam rolling.