Take a look around your gym or workout facility and you'll notice odd and colorful objects resembling a toddlers pen occupying the lonely corners - our lonely corners at Pulse are no exception. Anyone that has been in Pulse knows the day either starts or ends with some type of foam rolling or lacrosse ball "massage". If you've been in Pulse, you also know us, and you that we aren’t the type of dudes that would implement something new into our programs without either being the guinea pigs for it ourselves and/or knowing the science and reasoning behind it's effectiveness. In this blog, we'll discuss self myofascial release with foam rollers, lacrosse balls, and the like.
What Does This Do?
As we are rolling out on the lacrosse balls and foam rollers fishing for hot spots, your fascia is becoming freed up. Fascia is the sheet of connective tissue beneath the skin that attaches, stabilizes, encloses, and separates muscles. Fascia finds enemies in the form of under-use, overuse, and trauma. Unfortunately fascia is'nt very courageous - when facing those enemies, it cowers and becomes tight and restricted. Static stretching seems like the natural answer when feeling tight, but it takes a more aggressive approach to encourage that fascia to fight back and become resilient.
As opposed to static stretching, self myofascial release (SMR) tools allow us to treat the problem at its source and apply direct pressure to these trigger points. This increases blood flow, restores proper resting length, increases mobility, and relieves discomfort.
Fascia is present throughout the entire body, but the source of pain for most people when they first come to Pulse are in two specific areas: the knees and low back. Pain or discomfort is common in these areas most likely due to too much or too little movement in their everyday lives, but rarely and occasionally it can be attributed to an injury. Luckily, if there wasn't a single event a client remembers when the pain began, its a simple tightness or mobility issue.
Problem Area #1: Low Back
In the case of the low back, 99% of the time the person cannot even touch a lacrosse ball to their piriformis, a muscle deep in the hip that runs right next to the sciatic nerve. When it becomes inflamed or tight due to overuse or inactivity, it results in low back discomfort. Graduating from foam rolling this area to being a little more precise with the lacrosse ball will do wonders in as little as a few minutes for people with constant low back discomfort.
Problem Area #2: Knee
Clients or athletes that come in with knee pain will most likely be extremely tight through their Iliotibial (IT) band. This band of fascia runs from the hip down the outer thigh and attaches below the knee. When this tightens, the IT band will literally "pull" the knee cap out of its natural alignment and to the outer leg, causing a collision with the soft tissue where they will grind against each other with every knee flexion. Take a glance at your outer hip and lower knee and you'll see its difficult, and almost impossible, to find a static stretch to work this region. Manual loosening of this with the foam roller with break up any adhesions and allow the knee cap to fall back into its natural alignment, which will remove that aforementioned collision and grind of soft tissue. Most clients who have settled on the thought that they have a bad knee or arthritis, when in fact their IT bands are strung as tight as a guitar string and are causing the knee to track to one side rather than stay in its center lane.
Bonus: Post Workout Recovery
Besides just moving better, this stuff will help you recover from a training session. Yes, the workout was hard and the foam roller hurts, but fight fire with fire! After a hard training session, collapsing in the nearest chair is usually the first instinct. But we're forced to redirect that and perch them right up on a foam roller. This kickstarts the recovery process by restoring proper blood flow to allow the shuttling of nutrients for recovery. Two to three minutes of postworkout self myofascial release equates to a much less sore rest of your day.
From armchair quarterback to first string quarterback, athletes and personal training clients alike will benefit from some foam rolling and lacrosse ball work. Get rolling!