I have had this Foam roller, distance education course sitting on my desk for a while now….ahem…over 6months, which is why it has been placed on the hitlist. I have been wanting to learn a bit more about using a foam roller as it is a handy tool to have for injury prevention and injury management, especially for one who is about to ramp up her training in order to complete an Enduro Adventurethon in December. Eeeekkk!! Just waiting for registrations to open for Adventurethon Albany so that I can make it official.
Anyway, back to the topic at hand….Foam rollers and spikey balls. Sounds like it should be fun right? I mean they come in all different colours and sizes, and they even come with ribbing for increased pleasure.
Well let me tell you it’s not that fun, in fact it is very uncomfortable….but….I did feel a noticeable difference in my recovery a couple of days following my practical session. Not going to just take my word for it? Well let me convince you with a little theory (of the very brief variety) behind the practice. I will mention that Merrin Martin at Active Anatomy has put together a great little distance education course and it would be worth looking at this workshop if you are interested. You can head to this link to check it out.
The aim of using the foam rollers, spikey balls, and all the other related tools out there on the market is to perform a Self Myofascial Release. Say what??
OK, OK, now I’ll put it in basic english for you. This strong, stretchy, fascia stuff surrounds nearly every cell in the body and makes up 1/3 of our body. In the workbook they use the analogy that if you were to take everything else out of the body apart from the fascia you would be able to see an outline of the entire body. So if there is tightness or dysfunction in the fascia (think muscle tear, strain, or imbalance) then it will pull and create a change in tension throughout the whole body fascia. Comprende?? This abnormal strain can then crowd or pull bony structures out of alignment which leads to pain and further problems.
Enter the foam roller for the purpose of Self Myofascial Release. Fascia has been shown to work a bit like a sponge. If the fascia is stretched or compressed (ie. injury, immobility) then water is squeezed out. If it is left dehydrated like this for long periods then the whole area starts to stiffen and lose elasticity. When using the roller or spikey ball, direct pressure is applied to the area, the water is squeezed out, once the pressure is released the fibers retain their original state and water continues to flood the area at an even higher rate than before. Tada!! The area becomes more lubricated and elastic than before. Recommendations from this course are to roll slowly over the area you are working on until you hit a trigger point (a point of tenderness/pain in a palpable band) and hold this position for a minimum of 90 seconds. It takes approximately 90 seconds for the fascial network to respond and between 3-5 minutes for the release of the fascia. So take your time!
These are a few sites which give some demonstrations on how to use a foam roller for myofascial release:
Most videos out there have the expectation that you are injury free and have quite good upper body strength and stability. It is quite difficult to hold your body weight and you may find that some of these positions apply too much pressure on your muscles and you will have to modify.
Make sure you stop if you experience any of the following:
- Referred pain elsewhere in the body. You should only feel pain at the point of contact.
- Pins and Needles
- Hot, shooting pain.
- Caution should be taken doing any of the hamstring and glute releases especially if you have any disc problems or have a history of sciatica symptoms.
If at all unsure book a session with a Physiotherapist or an Exercise Physiologist. You are able to just ask if they could do a roller session with you. Use those health funds that we pay for but often don’t use as much as we should!! Good one to put on your hitlist.
I just want to leave you with my favourite quick release that actually feels really good, and you only need a tennis ball if you don’t have a spikey ball. Thank me later!