Foam rolling, or self myo-fascial release, is a great way to alleviate painful or restricted movement that occurs through hard training, chronic postures or injuries. Massage achieved through foam rolling breaks down sticky tissues and adhesions that prevent muscles from sliding over each other in their surrounding fascia (connective tissue). Muscle fascia can also stick to the underside of skin, blood vessels and nerves. Eventually these adhesions can restrict blood flow, nerve transmission and tissue health, and can lead to impaired movement and sleep, chronic back, neck, hip and leg pain.
There are different techniques to be used with a roller, but the commonly used one is to gently roll back and forth five times over the muscle area, breathing in and out with each roll, then to hold pressure over a sensitive spot for five to ten seconds. Sensory organs in the muscles sense pressure during a static hold on a foam roller, send a message to the brain which sends the message back to relax the muscle and release tension. Find a new section of muscle to work on and repeat.
Common areas to massage are calf, gluteals, upper back, front and back of thighs, especially towards the sides.
Once or twice a day might be needed to release tension in a specific area, but when discomfort lessens then once a day would suffice. Rolling can be done prior to, or after exercise. Prior to exercise may help align and coordinate the muscles ready for action. It can also be done during inactive time, in your living room while watching television.
If you don’t have a foam roller, a tennis ball, or small massage ball will provide more pinpoint pressure, and are helpful for difficult to reach areas.
The massage should feel “comfortably uncomfortable” rather than intensely painful.
Regular self massage with a roller will make changes towards healthy tissue and movement, and these can be heightened with the skilled work of a massage therapist.