Those two words can make the strongest person whimper. Well, I’m here to tell you that foam rolling, or self-myofascial release (SMR), has had a bad rap. I’m a new, enthusiastic convert. When you go to a massage therapist, you know it can really hurt when they hit a specific spot – and it usually feels much better when they’re finished, right? Well, the same goes for SMR, and you control the pressure.
I’m going to back up a bit for those of you who haven’t a clue as to what I’m talking about. SMR refers to the use of a variety of tools to relieve tight and overused muscles by applying pressure to specific points. SMR mimics massage techniques, which is a bonus since you can do when you have time wherever you want.
Everyone can benefit from SMR, just as anyone can benefit from a massage. In fact, everyone *should* use SMR.
My mantra is “Just Move!” Movement is healthy – but overuse and imbalances of tightness/weakness of certain muscle groups inhibit our ability to move with ease. SMR helps to re-establish proper movement patterns which have been altered by lifestyle factors – such as poor posture, intense workouts, poor hydration/nutrition, lack of sleep, etc. When muscles behave with more flexibility, you can prevent injury and obtain better balance, as well as increase strength, performance, and the ability to move without pain.
Think about it, when you sit at your desk or in a car all day, how do you feel? Pretty lousy and stiff, right? You keep working muscles that are tired and stressed, you’re going to end up with problems. This is a time when you can use SMR. When you roll with a grid, roller, or balls, etc., you’re increasing blood flow and flexibility just as a massage does.
Although the pressure applied by the tools may be uncomfortable, it should never be unbearable. It is valuable in repairing the body to prevent and/or alleviate greater pain. When muscles become tight, they pull at joints and can cause greater problems. For example, when your quadriceps tighten, they pull at the tendon running behind your kneecap and can cause pain during even the least bit of activity. Using a foam roller or ball applies pressure to the muscle. This compression helps to relax the overactive and strained muscle while breaking down adhesions that have formed in the tissue.
When do you use SMR? Well, besides “when it hurts” (don’t wait that long!}, it’s best to perform SMR in the morning, no matter what is ahead of you – whether you’re going to work-out or go to the office. Using SMR in the morning warms up your body and relieves any tension created overnight. Preparing for movement of any kind by releasing tightness and elongating the muscles will decrease the chances of injury, shorten the amount of time needed to warm up, and create better range of motion to put the body in better alignment.
Perform SMR before a workout. Your body will move more freely and can reduce the opportunity for soreness post workout.
You can do a little experiment. Do a few pushups, paying attention to your how your chest and back feel. Now roll your triceps really good, then do a few more pushups. The movement should feel smoother and easier. Imagine your body feeling lighter and easier to move. Well, you don’t have to imagine it, you can make it happen.
Performing SMR after any activity, whether it’s the end of a workday or after a workout, you can reduce stiffness and soreness, preventing future injury by catching tightness before it settles in. Be proactive.
Now that I’ve written all this, the question may be, “how do I learn how to do this?” Many people have both therapy balls and foam rollers or grids…and most don’t know how to use them properly. Both my business partner, Elizabeth (massage therapist), and I have been certified to teach techniques of foam rolling. You can go to LSEcommunity.com and schedule an appointment or look for classes that will be offered. Check our schedule for upcoming dates.
You can also write me and let me know if you want to receive our monthly newsletter and keep up with all workshops and classes we offer.
We are also offering workshops for sports teams, both adult and high school, so if you may be interested in those, please contact me at 502.939.1757 and I will be glad to provide more information.