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Foam Rolling – What is it and why you should do it

image1Self-myofascial release,  also known as “foam rolling,” has evolved from a once secretive technique used only by professional athletes, coaches, and therapists to a familiar everyday practice for people at all levels of fitness. Recent information, via You-tube and other social media, and affordable products have introduced an increasing range of training and recovery methods to the average person.

Self-myofascial release is a fancy term for self-massage to release muscle tightness or trigger points. Trigger points are specific “knots” that form in muscles. They are distinctive and are easily identified because they will refer pain. Pain referral can be described as the pain felt when pressure is applied to one area of the body, but the pain is felt or released in another area.

This method can be performed with a foam roller, cricket ball, massage stick, rolling pin, or your own hands. By applying pressure to specific points on your body you are able to aid in the recovery of muscles and assist in returning them to normal function. Normal function means your muscles are elastic, healthy, and ready to perform at a moment’s notice.

A common example of a trigger point is felt while foam rolling your iliotibial band (ITB) as it causes pain to radiate up to the hip or all the way down the leg to the ankle. When rolling or working on tight/sore muscles you will experience discomfort or pain. Think of it like the pain you get while stretching. It should be uncomfortable, but not unbearable, and when you are done it should feel better.

For many, deep tissue massage is easy to understand. Ideally someone is able to work out the knots in your muscles, and it is commonly known this process may be uncomfortable and at times painful. Self-myofascial release lets you control the healing and recovery process by applying pressure in precise locations, because only you can feel exactly what is happening.

Releasing trigger points helps to reset proper movement patterns and pain free movement, and ultimately, to enhance performance. Utilizing stretching alone is not always enough to release muscles tightness, which is why foam rollers have thrived on the mass market. Imagine a bungee cord with a knot tied into it and then envision stretching the cord. This creates tension, stretching the unknotted portion of the muscle and the attachment points. The knot, however, has remained unaltered.

Foam rolling can assist in breaking up these muscle knots, resuming normal blood flow and function. The goal to any corrective or recovery technique is to get you back to the point of normal functioning, as if nothing was ever wrong. When was the last time you trained like you were a teenager, going hard without a second thought, and injuries were something that only happened due to physical trauma like a 200cm, 105kg AFL player hitting you?

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Our bodies learn to compensate for what we throw at them every day, but we can exceed our ability to recover due to too many intense workouts, poor posture, and other lifestyle factors.  This is when you need assistance using recovery techniques or through seeing a professional. If you lived a perfect life with everything in balance, you would theoretically never have either of these conditions, however we have yet to meet that person.

How Does Self-Myofascial Release Work?

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.

We offer foam rolling, stretching and flexibility classes if you want some additional help or to be a part of a friendly exercise group.