Foam Rolling: A Love / Hate Relationship!
Posted: Aug 16 2019
By Balmain Sports Medicine
Foam rolling, two words that can instil dread in any runner or triathlete, however with consistent use can become a phrase of endearment!
If you are unfamiliar with the concept, a foam roller is a cylindrical foam tool which provides an affordable and convenient way to give yourself a deep tissue massage. By slowly rolling over various areas of the body the adhesions and scar tissue that build up with exercise and injury are broken up, therefore speeding up the healing and recovery process after sport/workouts.
Self-myofascial release (or ‘foam rolling/self-massage’) can be performed with the use of a foam roller, rolling pin, tennis or golf ball or even a bottle of wine! Why would I want to inflict pain on myself I often hear people ask? We refer to foam rolling soreness as ‘good pain!’ as this pain assists the return of your muscles to normal function post exercise, meaning back to their normal elastic state so they are ready to perform when you next ask them.
When rolling various muscles of the body it is encouraged that you focus on the tight/sore spots; trigger points (or more commonly known as ‘knots’). Trigger points are unique as they refer pain (i.e. the pain felt when applying pressure to a particular area causes radiation or pain in another area). An example of a common trigger point is that felt when rolling your TFL (tensor fascia latae muscle) which lies at the side of your hip and at the top of your ITB (iliotibial band), releasing this point can result in radiation of pain all the way down the leg to the outside of the shin.
How much pain is too much you ask? Discomfort as a descriptor is a good rule of thumb, pain should not be unbearable and you should be feel better once done; i.e. relaxed and ready for your next workout.
What about stretching? Often stretching a muscle alone is not enough to release muscle tightness. Imagine a rubber band with a knot tied in the middle, if you tried to stretch the band the knot would remain tight and excessive tension would build up throughout the band, making the structure fairly ineffective in its capacity to stretch and recoil. Foam rolling can help to break up these knots, encouraged normal blood flow and suppleness of the muscle.
Why do we get trigger points and tight muscles? A great number of reasons: exercise, nutrition, hydration, rest, stress and postural habits, to name a few. Our bodies are pretty good at compensating and adapting to the various tasks we throw at them day to day, however sometimes we overdo it (i.e., workout like a 21year old when we play in the over 35s category, or spend 8 hours typing away at the computer) and we exceed our bodies ability to cope an recover, hence resulting in an adaptive muscular response, i.e.. Tightness.
It is important to note that foam rolling isn’t the only strategy needed to maintain an injury free sporting life! If you consistently develop trigger points in the same areas there is a possibility you may have a biomechanical which needs addressing. For example, if your TFL (mentioned above) continues to give you grief, it is possible you may have some underperforming/sluggish or weak glutes which is resulting in an imbalance in the muscle recruitment around your hip. Long term this may result in hip/back or knee pain which could get in the way of your workouts!
If you feel the above may apply to you (along with any other concerns about your mechanics or muscle soreness) consult the physiotherapists at Balmain Sports Medicine on 98181004 for advice.