Foam rolling is also known as self-myofascial release which means self-massage to help release muscle tightness or trigger points (knots that form in muscles). Runners, dancers and athletes stand to benefit from foam rolling.
Foam rolling is done by rolling the foam roller under a muscle group until a trigger point is felt. Pressure is maintained on the trigger point for 30 to 60 seconds. Applying pressure to specific areas on the body can help aid the recovery of the muscles to its normal state. A muscle in its normal state is elastic, healthy and ready to be used within seconds.
One thing to note is that when foam rolling on a tight or sore muscle, there may be discomfort or even pain. However, the pain should be the type that’s felt when stretching, uncomfortable but not unbearable.
Some may ask, why should we foam roll especially since it may hurt? Well, look at it this way, foam rolling is a form of self-massage which may have the same results as other forms of massage such as deep tissue or sports massage. Of course, foam rolling needs to be done properly and taught by a professional to prevent any injury.
Dancers with tight iliotibial (i.e IT) bands could benefit from foam rolling. The IT band is a large strip of tissue that connects muscles in the outside thigh. This band is integral in the movement of the thigh by connecting hip muscles to the lower leg. Having a tight IT band could cause hip and knee pain along with inhibit flexibility which could affect how a dancer moves.
For a tight IT Band, lie on your side with the roller near and under your hip. Rest the other foot against the floor and move the foam roller along your outer thigh. If you feel like more pressure is needed, stack your legs.
Foam rolling isn’t just for rehabilitation but can be a part of a runner’s warm up and cool down routine. It could help improve blood circulation which helps get the body get ready for a workout and helps with recovery. Releasing muscle tightness could also help runners to achieve a proper running form.
For warm up, try rolling your calves by putting the roller under a calf. Rest the other foot on the floor and start rolling from the ankle to below the knee.
For cool down, try rolling your hamstrings which is similar to how calf foam rolling is done. Instead, roll from the knees to the buttocks.
If an area feels too painful to apply direct pressure, shift the roller to the surrounding areas and gradually work to loosen the muscles around the painful area.
Soreness the day after should be expected and this is because the muscles have been worked or released. Remember to also drink lots of water, get enough sleep and eat healthily to ensure that your body recovers properly. Give the muscle area 24 to 48 hours to rest before focusing the foam rolling on the same area again.
Things to note include, never roll a joint or bone and it’s best to avoid rolling your lower back. If you have issues with your neck, joints or your lower back, it’s best to see a medical professional because these are sensitive areas.
It’s best to check with a physical therapist or other medical professional before trying foam rolling especially if you’ve had a prior sports injury.