Foam rolling (or self myofascial release for you exercise physiology guys) is one of my personal favorites in alleviating body tightness, muscle recovery, and a workout warm-up . As an avid weightlifter I have had my fair share of close calls with back pulls/strains, herniated disks, or possibly even muscle tears, but I have been able to count my blessings in avoiding major injuries and I most certainly thank this little guy in helping prevent them.
Now what does a foam roller exactly do? a foam roller helps break down scar tissue and elongate muscle fibers and fascia that builds up in the body. Muscle tightness, occurs after long periods of little movement of that particular muscle weakening it and causing an over activation of supplementary muscle groups, this in turn causes muscular imbalance. When muscle imbalances occur, risk of injury increases as well as a loss of strength.
The foam roller is doing a very similar job to what a massage therapist would do as I too suggest seeing a proper massage therapist semi regularly for the fascia release therapies that they offer. But for most people they do not have the time and money to see a massage therapist 4-6 days a week, which is why I think a $20 dollar foam roller for daily use is quite worth the investment.
Many people deal with lower back pain on a day-to-day basis but many don’t know that one of the greatest factors of lower back pain doesn’t actually occur in the back at all, it happens in the hamstrings. the hamstrings are a 3 muscle group on the back of the thigh connected to the posterior of the pelvis, allowing flexion of the knee and extension of the hip.
When a persons hamstrings are tight they begin to pull down on the pelvis which generally has a slight anterior shift (pelvis slightly higher in the back than front) downward. This in turn causes the back to “flatten” which puts greater pressure of the back to stabilize the body’s ability to stand upright against gravity. If you are standing for a prolonged period and begin to feel your lower back tighten and “burn” tight hamstrings are most often the culprit.
Foam rolling is done at least 3 days a week (although daily rolling would be prefered) for at least 10-15 minutes. If you are new to foam rolling there are many useful articles and videos to learn proper technique, exercises and routines out there. With a proper foam rolling routine I would suggest concentrating on exercises that target the posterior chain (Hamstrings, Glutes, Hips, Back, IT bands, and Abs) doing 20-30 rolls per exercise or when you feel the pressure in the muscle relieved. Now I’m not going to lie myofascial release is not a walk in the park, it can hurt, a lot. Many give up foam rolling because of the pain but if you push through it and stay consistent the results will come.
Self-myofascial release is one of the best ways to avoid injury and increase ones daily life, but many just don’t know about it. Hopefully this short intro article got you to notice this old but new way of dealing with sore muscle tightness and injury prevention without the need of expensive medical advice, and the need for medication.
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(price as of Jul 27, 2015)