What is happening inside when you do foam rolling or use any types of balls or tools for self-myofascial release (SMR)?
Foam Rolling or Self Myofascial Release (SMR) is a technique to help alleviate muscle or fascial tightness in the body. Using a foam roller is essentially a more affordable way to give yourself a deep tissue massage. By slowing rolling over various areas of your body, you’ll help break up adhesions and scar tissue and speed up the healing and recovery process after your workout. Nine studies were included and the authors found that SMR appears to have positive effects on ROM (range of movement) and soreness/fatigue following exercise or playing hockey. This same research found there is no negative aspects to SMR before playing. In fact according to sports medicine expert it can help prevent injuries.
Using a roller can be a cheap and cheerful way of getting SMR. When you do, I offer the following advice:
1) Move slowly. Fast rolling is less effective at ‘squeezing the sponge’, and can result in creating useless muscle tension, bruising, and perhaps receptor damage. The deeper you are going, the more slowly you should move.
2) Look for ‘unknown’ places. Doing the same rolling program continually has rapidly diminishing returns. Keep rolling different places in your body, and look for the places you haven’t touched yet, and get in there. For example: Lying on your side and rolling the inner side of your upper thigh over the roller. Rolling the front and back of your armpit. Your back has many. many layers and can be usefully rolled at deeper levels, but will not respond to the same-old-same-old.
3) When you find a “trigger point” pause on it, relax and allow the muscle ‘release’ (you will feel the discomfort subside). Hold for 60 seconds. Breathing will help you to relax so make sure you are not holding your breath! This is not a “Hero Test” checking to see how much pain you can withstand. So if an area is too sore to roll initially, apply pressure to the surrounding areas to help ‘loosen’ it. Concentrating on sensitive spots will help relax your muscles is the first step in a proper warm up, followed by stretching any tight muscles, and then performing dynamic exercises like prisoner squats and lunges.
Here is a video to help develop the technique of SMR using a foam roller
Finally NEVER ROLL A BONE OR JOINT and AVOID rolling your lower back.