Foam rolling, also known as ‘myofascial release’ has recently transformed from a once mysterious technique used by professional coaches and athletes to common everyday practice for people at all levels of fitness. New information and affordable products have brought about a multitude of training and recovery methods for the average fitness enthusiast.
Self-myofascial release is a fancy term for self-massage to release trigger points and tight muscles. You can do this yourself by applying pressure to specific areas with a foam roller, lacrosse ball or your own hands. Done correctly you can aid in the recovery of muscles and assist in returning them to normal function when they are elastic, healthy and able to perform optimally.
Should you be doing it
You probably wouldn’t hesitate to see a massage therapist if you had tight shoulders, and the same mindset should be used for any part of your body, the main benefit here is that you can fix it yourself. This feeling of tightness in a muscle is normally a signal that you need to do some form of myofascial release, however, there are other signs to look out for.
Trigger point therapy can also help reestablish proper pain-free movement patterns, ultimately enhancing performance. Stretching alone is not always enough to release muscle tightness and bring back pain-free movement, which is why foam rollers are currently prospering on the mass market. By actively performing foam rolling, you can assist in breaking up muscle knots, helping to bring back normal muscle function.
How it works
Deep compression helps to break up or relax tight muscles and adhesions formed between muscle layers and their surroundings. Imagine you are tenderizing your own muscles. They should be soft and supple like a baby’s muscles. However, if our muscles are not taken care of properly we can experience loss of flexibility, adhesions, and painful movement.
The deep compression of self-myofascial release allows normal blood flow to return and the restoration of healthy tissue. The body naturally wants to be healthy and strong, but sometimes an extra boost is needed to achieve optimal muscle and tissue health.
How to do it
To foam roll properly, apply moderate pressure to a specific muscle or muscle group using the roller and your bodyweight. You should roll slowly, no more than one inch per second. When you find areas that are tight or painful, pause for several seconds and relax as much as possible. You should slowly start to feel the muscle releasing, and after 5-30 seconds the discomfort or pain should lessen.
If an area is too painful to apply direct pressure, shift the roller and apply pressure on the surrounding area and gradually work to loosen the entire area. The goal is to restore healthy muscles – it is not a pain tolerance test. You may also use other objects to work on muscles such as a tennis ball, lacrosse ball, Theracane, or Trigger Point Therapy Kit.
Never roll a joint or bone. Avoid rolling your lower back. To target these muscles I recommend using tennis or lacrosse balls. If you are having issues with your neck, refer these issues to an appropriate medical professional, as these areas they can be more sensitive and require more advanced attention.
The cause of trigger points and tight muscles
The contributing factors include training, movement patterns, posture, hydration, stress, nutrition, flexibility, age, and other lifestyle factors. Our bodies will try to compensate for what we throw at them every day but sometimes we can exceed our ability to recovery due to one or more of these factors.
I have found the older I get the more I need to engage in myofascial release to keep my muscles healthy.
The next time you feel a muscle ache or tightness, give foam rolling a try, you may find it alleviates the problem instantly.