Those of you who come to me regularly for massage know what a fan I am of the foam roller. I’m not talking about the ones that you put in your hair to make it curly, rather those used to iron out tired and stiff muscles. Whilst some favour the steamroller approach of using the roller to plough all the way along the length of the muscle, I prefer the more targeted approach where you roll slowly inch by inch, backwards and forwards, feeling where the tightness is in the muscle and gently releasing it as you go.
We demand that our muscles work hard continuously for us but we have to remember that they don’t contract or relax uniformly. This accumulates over time to form pockets of tightness or adhesions in the muscle. Using a foam roller helps to break these down, bringing increased circulation to the area as well. Of course this isn’t a replacement for regular and effective deep tissue massage but is very useful to do in between times and after exercise.
Only use the roller over soft tissue and never on the bony vetebrae, shoulder blades etc..as these could be damaged by too much pressure. If an area feels too sensitive or hurts then ease off and use a lighter pressure. You may also find trigger points which can produce a painful, sometimes burning sensation, but these can be gradually released by rolling.
I usually recommend that you use a foam roller for the bigger muscles which have a larger surface area and respond well to this treatment. These include the gluteal muscles, quadriceps, hamstrings and calf muscles. You can also work on the illiotibial band (ITB) which runs down the side of the leg from upper thigh to knee. This often gets tight in runners with the pain usually felt on the outside of the knee. However do remember that the ITB is a tendon and doesn’t stretch that far, it is also very close to the bone so don’t overdo it as it can become inflamed and painful. Instead roll into the tensor fascia latae the top of the ITB as stretching this often brings relief further down.