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Injury prevention: The foam roller

Have you ever wondered why those people at the gym are rolling around on the floor with a giant rolling-pin thingy? Or why they’re stepping on a lacrosse ball and rolling their feet on it?  At first glance, those would be my first thoughts as well. In fact, I would ask myself, “What could be healthy about rolling around on a dirty gym floor?” It turns out, a lot is healthy about it. Let me explain.

Another name for this foam rolling technique is called self-myofascial release (rolls off of the tongue, right?). This stretching technique focuses on the tissue that surrounds and separates muscle tissues called fascia. It functions as lubricant for our muscles so it can lengthen and shorten without any friction. When the fascia is damaged from overuse or overstress, adhesions or knots form in our muscles that can cause tightness, pain or discomfort.

Due to my active lifestyle, my body has a lot of wear and tear. In fact, due to tight and imbalanced muscles from long runs and high-intensity strength training exercises, I found myself on the sidelines for a couple of months due to muscle injury. Ever since the injury, I devote my rest days to doing self-myofascial release on certain muscles that are really bothering me.

Using a foam roller can:

  • Improve joint range of motion or mobility
  • Correct muscle imbalances due to adhesions and knots in the muscle fibers
  • Relieve muscle soreness and joint stress
  • Help improve tight muscles
  • Help maintain proper muscle length for functional movements (agility for playing sports)

Guidelines for use:

  • Should be done before static or dynamic stretching activities
  • Do not apply pressure on bones and joints, but only muscle
  • When you find the “trigger point” (or what I like to call the “happy spot”), stop and just hold the position of the foam roller for 10 to 30 seconds. You will know you’re on your happy spot when it hurts.

Where to use self-myofascial release:

 

Calves

 

Hamstrings

 

Hip Muscles