How to foam roll and self massage
Foam rollers offer many of the same benefits as sports massage.
The foam roller increases blood flow and circulation to the soft tissues warming up the muscles. It also breaks down soft tissue adhesions and scar tissue. By using your own body weight and rolling down a cylindrical foam roller you can perform a self-massage or myofascial release, break up adhesions, and soothe tight fascia. Foam rollers can also be used by athletes as part of a warm up or cool down.
The superficial fascia is a soft connective tissue located just below the skin. It wraps and connects the muscles, bones, nerves and blood vessels of the body. Together, muscle and fascia make up what is called the myofascia system. For various reasons including disuse, overuse, not enough stretching, or injuries, the fascia and the underlying muscle tissue can become stuck together. This is called an adhesion and it may cause a restriction in muscle movement. It also causes pain, soreness and reduced flexibility or range of motion.
Myofascial release is a technique used in sports & remedial massage in which a practitioner uses gentle, sustained pressure on the soft tissues while applying traction to the fascia. This technique results in softening and lengthening (release) of of the fascia and breaking down scar tissue or adhesions between skin, muscle and bones.
Myofascial release has also been shown to relieve various muscle and joint pains and it also improves flexibility and range of motion. Foam rollers are inexpensive and with a bit of experimentation you can target just about any muscle group.
A tennis ball can also be used for Myofascial release. In some areas of the body this can actually be more useful than a foam roller and produce better results. For example, it isn’t very easy to target the area between the scapulas with a foam roller, but using a tennis ball or something similar you are able to target the muscles in between the spine and the scapula. For a more balanced approach you can tape two tennis balls together. This allows release of both sides of the body at once and minimises pressure on the vertebrae.
Another example is the calf muscle. Sometimes it is quite difficult to get enough pressure or control when using a foam roller for the calf’s, one of the best ways to do Myofascial release on the calf is to use a massage stick or you could use a rolling pin.
You can have a similar problem using the foam roller on the hamstrings. I find that I get the best results by using a spikey ball or a tennis ball under my leg in a seated position.
With any of these forms of Myofascial release you should find, as I refer to it, the hot spots. Pause for a moment until the sharpness has gone and then move on and find the next.
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