Yes really! Whoever decided to add the word ‘roller’ to its name has inadvertently put off about 80% of users from ever using a foam roller for a second time. The emphasis on rolling is too strong. So if you’re in this category of one-time users hopefully I can encourage you to dust off your foam roller once more!
Foam rolling (otherwise known as self-myofascial release) is a great way of loosening soft tissue before and after exercise to prevent and rehab injuries by maintaining flexibility.
Many of my clients have used a foam roller but haven’t continued because it’s too painful. On closer inspection I tend to see common issues with techniques. People typically roll too much, too quickly, position themselves inappropriately and fail to ‘hold’ on tender areas making foam rolling too painful and less effective.
There are lots of videos on the internet about foam rolling, but there are a few nuggets of information that I feel aren’t always emphasised enough:
- Roll less and hold more. The process of rolling is done largely to search for tender, tight muscles. Once you have found a tender, tight muscle use your bodyweight to push down. When the blood supply is reduced the muscle has to relax. Similar to trigger pointing, a technique used by therapists to encourage a muscle to relax. You should hold on any one area for 30 seconds or longer. When the pain decreases you can move on to the next tender, tight area.
- When you roll, roll slowly. Rolling too fast will causes muscles to contract (causing more pain and having the opposite effect to the one you want….doh!) Typically clients will try and get the process over and done with by rolling quickly. As pain increases so does breath-holding and body tension, again having a negative effect.
- Find a comfortable position. Rarely do I meet a client who has been told to support their head on their hand during side lying techniques to prevent neck strains or who has opted to use a cushion to prop themselves up if they aren’t flexible enough to perform the complete exercise. Getting comfy is important and it means you are more likely to hold positions for longer and support yourself better giving you more control of the degree of pressure you apply to a muscle. It’s not cheating it’s being realistic!
A common foam rolling exercise I teach is a back stretch. This technique involves the mid and upper back and is a great corrective stretch for those that drive, sit or ride (i.e. everyone). It helps correct that typically rounded back posture that so many of us suffer. I’m all for using props with this stretch and just encourage clients to do it for 1 minute a day initially to create a habit.
If you want to book a foam rolling session to learn more and get a personal program just go to frankienaylorsportstherapy.com/booking and choose the ‘Rehab exercises’ option.
Let me know what you think if you’ve tried foam rolling and do post your comments below.