Foam rolling, self-myofascial release, has been a crucial aspect of my warm up protocol before training for the past few years. Two summers ago I experienced bouts of lower back pain and hip discomfort. The lower back pain would intensify when I was sitting or standing. The hip pain only aroused when I would do back squats. I ignored the pain for months until I couldn’t take it and it became unbearable. I went to a massage therapist who suggested that I start using a lacrosse ball or something similar on my hip flexors, quadriceps and piriformis (back of my hips). I didn’t think that just rolling would do the trick for my lower back.... but after 2 weeks straight of rolling every single day, I haven’t experienced lower back pain again! The musculoskeletal system is a very intricate system where many muscles overlap in different areas of the body. Just because you are experiencing pain in one area doesn’t mean the area causing the problem is the area in pain, a phenomenon called referred pain. My quads and piriformis were so tight that they began pulling on the support structures for my lower back, which in turn caused pain. I have implemented daily self-myofascial release into my training program as well as friends and clients in order to maintain a healthy and flexible body.
Foam rolling has been proven to speed up recovery and help with rehabilitation. A study that was done back in 2014 was conducted to measure how well the “foam rolling after exercise-induced muscle damage, analyzing thigh girth, muscle soreness, range of motion (ROM), evoked and voluntary contractile properties, vertical jump, perceived pain while FR, and force placed on the foam roller” The conclusion showed positive results in shortening the duration of muscle soreness, muscle activation, vertical jump, and passive and dynamic range of motion when compared to a control. The foam rolling benefits are mostly received through the neural responses and the connective tissue. (1)
Most Americans have jobs or engage in activities that cause us to be seated. One article states that we, on average, sit around 13 hours a day. (3)Sitting for long periods of time can cause tightness in the hips and other muscles which can affect the ability to obtain proficient range of motion in your joints. Static stretching use to be the number one technique to obtain adequate ROM prior to exercising. Foam rolling is now being used in addition or in replacement of static stretching. One study looked at soccer players and their knee and hip ROM. The study had the soccer players perform 2 bouts of a minute of foam rolling for each hip muscle group and the muscle groups that allow knee flexion and extension. Both knee flexion and hip flexion improved. (2)
Overall, foam rolling has seen growth in the fitness and rehabilitation industry as a way to reduce muscle soreness, increase flexibility and even increase muscle activation during a workout. Foam rolling has helped me keep my joints and muscles healthy so that I can continue to perform properly in the gym without injury. We use foam rolling and additional self massage techniques as well as static, dynamic, AIS, and PNF stretching with our clients and athletes at different phases of their training depending upon the individual and the situation.
Here are a few sample pictures of foam rolling around the hip and knee to improve flexibility and reduce soreness. For detailed instructions on how to incorporate self-myofascial release into your fitness and/or fitness program contact us to set up an appointment. ** Always consult with your doctor before starting a new exercise program**
Psoas (Hip Flexor)
Macdonald, G. Z., D. C. Button, E. J. Drinkwater, and D. G. Behm. "Foam Rolling as a Recovery Tool after an Intense Bout of Physical Activity." National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, Jan. 2014. Web. 11 Feb. 2016.
Markovic, Goran, Ph.D. "Acute Effects of Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization vs. Foam Rolling on Knee and Hip Range of Motion in Soccer Players." Science Direct. Elsevier Ltd., 5 May 2015. Web.
"New Survey: To Sit or Stand? Almost 70% of Full Time American Workers Hate Sitting, but They Do It All Day Every Day."PRNewswire. PRNewswire, 17 July 2013. Web. 11 Feb. 2016.