Myofascial release is a soft-tissue therapy technique to treat skeletal muscle tightness and pain. It aims to relax stiff muscles, improve blood circulation, and improve flexibility in muscles. I practiced as a myotherapist for four years before and I witnessed how this massage technique work wonders! I have done myotherapy for different kinds of pain-struck people: from competitive athletes to sedentary office workers who have been complaining of chronic pain and aches. I have had other therapists do myofascial release to me, and have done myofascial release to myself and as both a provider and recipient of this luxurious healing procedure, I can attest to its effectiveness.
Of course, nothing beats a soothing massage done by expert massage therapists while you lay down and relax, but when you’re in a race or competition and you need release from tensed up muscles this luxury is not an option and you need an alternative to take your aches away. As I’ve mentioned earlier, I have done myofascial release to myself many times and you can do it, too, but it takes trained hands to find, press, and release those stubborn muscle knots and tight muscle bands. Fortunately, someone invented the Foam Roller which is now a very common partner of many runners, marathoners, triathletes, swimmers, and other athletes. Using the foam roller is very easy and it can be done by almost anyone who needs relief before or after a race. Foam rolling is a technique that has been developed as a treatment in physiotherapy to inhibit over-active and tight muscles. Apart from targeting tight muscles, foam rollers can also be used as a challenging exercise tool to correct posture, improve balance and coordination, and work the core. Pilates exercises use the foam roller in various ways to work the whole body and challenge the core.
In the absence of a massage therapist or athletic trainer, using foam rollers for myofascial release can be effective for many major muscle groups including the gastrocnemius, latissimus dorsi, piriformis, adductors and abductors, quadriceps, hamstrings, hip flexors, and the thoracic spine. Usually, the foam roller is placed under each muscle group and pressure is applied on the trigger point by putting your body weight on the foam roller. In actual massage therapy, the pressure is held for 7 to 20 seconds, depending on the tenderness of the area, amount of pressure administered, and tightness of the muscle knot. Techniques vary in massage therapy but since only a limited amount of pressure can be applied in foam rolling, it is recommended to ‘roll’ on each area or hold the pressure for 30 seconds up to 1 minute. The GRID foam rollers have firmer surface and features unique “distrodensity zones” of varying width that allows for precision massage so you can target those muscle knots more efficiently.
If you want to improve your performance and maximize your training, then add a foam roller to your training program both for challenging core exercises and relaxing muscle release!
Here are some tips and reminders when using foam rollers:
- Use your foam roller on an exercise mat so that it won’t slip or roll easily and you have maximum control.
- A tip from a former myotherapist: the area where your pain is may be different from where your problem is. The nerves in our muscles can sometimes produce a ‘radiating pain’ which means that the tight knot exhbits pain somewhere else. Most people use the foam roller to press and roll only on the areas where they feel the pain. A common example is using the foam roller on tight IT bands for ITB pain and knee pains. The pain you feel on your ITB or knee is only the symptom of tight muscles somewhere else and rolling on your ITB erroneously would not relieve you of anything and may even cause tenderness on your ITB. Use the foam roller with caution and precision.
- Don’t depend on your foam roller to relieve you of your pain. Warm up properly before you work out, make sure you cool down enough after you train and stretch regularly.
- Apply heat packs or warm pads to painful areas to relax the muscle before you use the foam roller.
- Not all pain can be treated using foam rollers especially acute ones. Do not use the foam roller for ankle sprain, muscle strains, and bruises.
- Do not use a foam roller on a joint. They are supposed to work your muscles only.