Foam Rolling: What/Why/How?
In todays world there are a multitude of differing manual therapy products available. Foam rolling has developed from a once puzzling procedure utilised by professional athletes to now the most conventional and commonplace application of manual therapy for people at all levels of fitness.
Self-myofascial release is a mode of manual therapy designed to address localised tightness in the muscle fascia.
- SELF – You can do this on your own
- MYOFASCIAL – “MYO” relates to the muscle, fascia is the thin, elastic type of connective tissue that wraps most structures within the human body
- RELEASE – The goal is to release tensions (“trigger points”) in the fascia caused by exercise, bad posture, or inflammation
Fascia is “the soft tissue element of the connective tissue structure that permeates and encircles the entire musculoskeletal architecture in a continual three-dimensional network” (LeMoon, 2008).
Within this huge network myofascial trigger points arise. These are delicate and unique “knots” in distinct, taut bands of hardened muscle that invoke pain. Knots may lead to an assortment of sports injuries, from cramps to more serious muscle tears. Ultimately, they culminate in fatigue, chronic pain and disorganised motor skill performance. An athlete’s worst nightmare!
Foam rolling assists in breaking up these knots, restoring normal blood flow and tissue function. Normal function means your muscles are elastic, healthy, and ready to perform. Rolling comprises of lying on the ground, with the foam roller placed between the body and the ground. The foam roller is pressed into the chosen muscle group, and applying a constant pace, transfer your body weight back and forth over it, with slow movements in each direction, “rolling” along the floor. Compared to a typical sports massage self-myofascial release provides the user with the capability to govern the restoration process by administering pressure in specific areas, because only you can feel exactly what is happening.
The body naturally wants to be healthy and strong, but sometimes an extra boost is needed to achieve optimal muscle and tissue health. Unfortunately, our bodies become accustomed to what we throw at them, and we can surpass our capacity to heal. Training intensity, flexibility issues, movement patterns, postural inefficiencies, nutrition and hydration problems, improper rest and stress all contribute to this.
The sensation of rolling can cause pain. The harshness of this pain hinges on the sensitivity and muscular tension within your muscles. Stretching is not always enough to free muscular tightness, which is why foam rollers have flourished on the mass market and are now an essential piece of kit in any serious athletes bag.
When you disperse the correct level of force upon trigger points, it drives the lumpy muscle tissue to “break up”, which can cause instant pain. Freeing trigger points allows your muscles to regenerate, reviving efficient muscle movement functions and proper blood circulation. This course of action will revitalise your body back to the point of normal functioning, as if nothing was ever wrong, so that you can go about your day without pain.
LeMoon, K. (2008). Terminology used in fascia research. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, 12, 204-212.