What is Foam Rolling?
Foam rolling is a technique where a person rolls themselves over a cylindrical foam or pvc roller, in order to reduce muscle tension and myofascial adhesions. It is especially well known for treating the “IT Band” as this area is notoriously hard to stretch. For this reason, it is very popular with hockey players, runners, and dancers.
What is fascia and myofascial adhesions?
Your connective tissue or fascia is a thin, silvery sheath that compartmentalizes every strand of your muscles, as well as organs. It is the same tissue that makes up your tendons, and is very strong! Sometimes, due to repetitive motion, lack of motion, or habitual postures, muscles and fascia can bind together causing “adhesions” or stuck areas. These “knots” can be painful, and cause movement restrictions, decreased flexibility, and inefficient muscle firing.
How does Foam Rolling work?
Foam rolling works in much the same way that a deep-tissue massage does. Muscles contain a receptor called the Golgi Tendon Organ (or GTO). The GTO is essentially our muscular tension feedback device, which saves us from potential injuries. When a muscle is tensed so much that it is in danger of injury, the GTO tells the brain to release the muscle. The pressure created by the foam roller stimulates the GTO and causes the muscle to relax. This moment of relaxation allows us to improve the length and quality of our muscle tissue. The foam rolling action helps release stuck areas of connective tissue (tendons and fascia) allowing for healthy blood flow and circulation to your tissue.
What are some of the benefits?
- Improve your range of motion and flexibility
- Maintain a healthy muscle length (i.e. NOT short and tight!)
- Reduce uncomfortable muscle tension
- Reduce the likelihood of injury from over-tight muscles
- Increase joint range of motion and improve healthy joint mechanics
- Increase neuromuscular efficiency (important for athletes!)
- Break down myofascial adhesions or “stuck” connective tissue.
Here are a few guidelines:
- Choose a roller that’s right for you. Some are harder (best for muscle-bound athletes) and some are quite soft (best for recovering from major injuries, for seniors, or those with fibromyalgia)
- Avoid rolling directly over bony areas, especially the spine.
- Roll over the area a minimum of 10 times to be effective.
- To increase muscle length, roll along the length of the muscle.
- To decrease adhesions, roll cross-fiber (perpendicular to the muscle fibers).
- If you find a tight spot, hold that position for at least 30 seconds to allow the muscle to release.
- Some discomfort is normal. Start gentle and work your way up to longer sessions. You will find that the discomfort decreases with every time you roll!
Here are a few helpful online guides to help you get started!
- and a helpful video: youtube.com/watch?v=khC5J1lkC7s
Good luck! Remember it is always best to check with your health care professional before starting a new routine. Stay safe!