Have you ever noticed the more you work out the aches and pains tend to add up? Or maybe you can’t seem to get in a consistent workout due to the extreme tightness you experience on a daily basis.
The relief you experience can only be had at the hands of a massage therapist. Although you would love to have a massage therapist at your home to help the relief on a daily basis, there is a more portable and less expensive solution to your problem: foam rolling.
Foam rolling, also known as self myofascial release (SMR), has been shown to improve daily function and exercise in addition to stretching on a consistent daily basis. According to SportsMedicine.About.Com, "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 myofascial system."
A great description of the Myofascial System was found on Experts123.com:
Think of [the] Myofascial System as a skin-tight mesh spider suit from head to toe. The Myofascial System is the most pervasive muscle tissue system in our bodies extending throughout our body in a non-specific direction. It is composed of collagen and elastin fibers that provide elasticity and support for the entire musculoskeletal system.
The SportsMedicine.About.com article "For various reasons including disuse, not enough stretching or injuries, the fascia and the underlying muscle tissue can become stuck together. This is called an adhesion and it results in restricted muscle movement. It also causes pain, soreness and reduced flexibility or range of motion."
Self-myofascial release (SMR) on a foam roller is possible thanks to a principle known as autogenic inhibition. The autogenic inhibition principle, put simply, is a protective way our body has of preventing us from exerting more force than our bones and tendons can tolerate. The release of the fascia allows the system to release the adhesions through passive stretching of the muscle.
Let’s look at the benefits of Foam Rolling SMR"
1. Helps correct muscle imbalances - Sometimes we have an imbalance of muscle due to a weakness. When it comes to imbalance we often compensate with incorrect posture, which can affect how we sit, walk and exercise.
2. Improve joint range of motion - As mentioned, the fascia is like a spiderweb and that spiderweb can limit the range of the joint motion if adhesions are hanging out throughout our body.
3. Relieves muscle soreness and joint stress - Much like a massage, foam rolling assists in working out the kinks.
4. Decreases Neuromuscular Hypertonicity (NH) - When trauma occurs, our bodies may react with a reflex of tension to protect that area which is referred to as Neuromuscular Hypertonicity. The foam roller assists in relaxing the area and re-training the brain to allow the area to relax in effect decreasing NH.
5. Extensibility of musculotendinous junction- It allows the GTO, Golgi Tendon Organ, to stop reacting to the possibility of injury and allows the fascia to be corrected.
6. Allows for Neuromuscular Efficiency - In simple terms, we are able to move and function the way the body was meant to move on a physical basis. We can take a step and all muscles, bones, etc are doing what they are supposed to do, in an efficient manner.
7. Maintain normal functional muscular length - If done on a regular basis the tightness that can occur with regular exercise can be relieved with foam rolling. This allows you to function better as well as improve your exercise program.
Where do you get started?
A foam roller is a one- to three-foot long foam cylinder which you can be found at your local sporting goods store. They can range in price from $20 to $50. When purchasing the foam roller try it out and be sure that it has enough tension but not too much tension to help you work on your kinks. You can also purchase a foam roller online; however, that will not enable you to test the tension.
Most foam rollers have a video or picture guide on how to perform the proper techniques. If you are truly unsure of how to perform the techniques, consult a professional such as a personal trainer, physical therapist or a massage therapist who is familiar with foam rolling. A professional may also help you in finding which areas of your body may need additional care when foam rolling.
Remember when trying something new, be sure to be safe, consult with your physician or health care provider to make sure this method of flexibility is appropriate for you. Don’t forget, SMR should be performed in conjunction with a stretching program as well. So, get out there and start rolling!