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It is estimated that over 116 million Americans suffer from debilitating chronic pain each year, of which low back pain is the most common. According to The American Academy of Pain Medicine, “Back pain is the leading cause of disability in Americans under 45 years old.  More than 26 million Americans between the ages of 20-64 experience frequent back pain.” There is a proven and effective way to treat most forms of chronic pain — self-myofascial release using foam roller massage therapy.By performing self-myofascial release techniques using a foam roller or ball, you can reduce trigger points, decrease tissue tension, and break down scar tissue adhesions in injured myofascial tissue (muscle and fascia) formed by a combination of acute trauma, poor posture, repetitive movement, over-training, or inadequate sleep. The goal of self-myofascial release is to speed up the healing and recovery process, reduce pain, improve joint range of motion, balance the body, and prevent injury.How does self-myofascial release work?Fascia is a three-dimensional fibrous matrix interconnected throughout the body from the top of the head to the bottom of the feet.  Fascia surrounds muscles, bones, and joints providing the body structural integrity and strength. Dysfunctional fascia is a leading cause of chronic pain, reduced flexibility, and decreased athletic performance.Located within the muscle and tendon tissue are two sensory receptors called the muscle spindle and the golgi tendon organ.  These sensory receptors monitor muscular and tendon tension from the surrounding tissue and relates it to your nervous system. They are highly sensitive to changes in muscle tension and rate of change. Stimulation of the golgi tendon organ leads to a decrease in soft tissue tension.Placing pressure directly on tight or overly toned muscle tissue using deep tissue massage therapy or self-myofascial release techniques stimulates the golgi tendon organ to relax tension in the soft tissue.  Decreases in soft tissue tension will help break down scar tissue adhesions, increase joint mobility, reduce pain, and improve overall function.

BENEFITS OF Foam Roller Massage Therapy

  • correct muscle imbalances
  • increase joint range of motion
  • decrease muscle soreness and relieve joint stress
  • decrease tight or overly toned muscle tissue
  • increase extensibility of muscle and tendon tissue
  • increase performance
  • maintain normal functional muscular length

Self Foam Roller Release Instructions

Self-myfascial techniques are very simple to learn.  To perform self-myofascial release you will need a foam roller and a small ball (such as a golf ball, tennis ball, lacrosse ball, or softball).

In this article I will go over self massage therapy using a foam roller for beginners. This is a shorter session that should take between 30-45 minutes to complete. The goal of this session is to begin to unlock the hips and shoulders. After you have spent a few weeks and feel more comfortable with self-myofascial release therapy, there is an intermediate and advanced session that I teach.

Following the directions in the pictures below, place your body weight on the foam roller over taut bands of muscle tissue that need to be released. For the best results, begin near the center of the body and slowly work away from the center of the body.

Relax your body, breathe, and slowly roll through the length of the muscle. Your muscles will naturally tense up, especially when you hit a trigger point.  Ease into it and allow yourself to relax.

If you find a painful spot, stop and visualize the soft tissue as melting butter and the foam roller as a hot knife. Allow pressure into the tissue and within 30-60 seconds you will notice a significant reduction in pain. Once the pain reduces significantly (20-30%), move on to the next painful spot and repeat.

Spend between 3-5 minutes on each side. It is very important that you spend an equal amount of time on both sides and that you work through each of the areas listed to gain the most out of self-myofascial release.

Beginners Session Pictures
Arches

Using a golf ball to release the plantar fascia - self massage using a foam roller and ball

Use a small ball, such as a golf ball.

Adductors
Place foam roller lengthwise to your body. Bend your knee to 90 degrees with your inner thigh on the foam roller.

Place foam roller lengthwise to your body. Bend your knee to 90 degrees with your inner thigh on the foam roller.

Slowly massage out to the knee seeking out the most painful spots - Foam roller at inner thigh

Slowly massage out to the knee seeking out the most painful spots.

Tensor Fascia Latte

Place foam roller beneath the top of the hip bone. Lie with one hip on the roller. Opposite hip is off the foam roller.

Place foam roller beneath the top of the hip bone. Lie with one hip on the roller. Opposite hip is off the foam roller.

With foam roller on front of hip, massage from the hip bone to the top of the thigh. Slowly rotate your opposite hip up towards the ceiling.

Massage from the hip bone to the top of the thigh. Slowly rotate your opposite hip up towards the ceiling.

Gluteals
Sit on the foam roller. Turn your body to one side. Massage through the entire gluteal area from the crack of your butt to the outside of your hip, top of the pelvis to the top of the thigh.

Sit on the foam roller. Turn your body to one side. Massage through the entire gluteal area from the crack of your butt to the outside of your hip, top of the pelvis to the top of the thigh.

Teres Minor
Placing the foam roller at the armpit. Lie on your side with your arm overhead. Slowly massage from the top of the arm to below the shoulder blade. Do not massage in the armpit area.

Placing the foam roller at the armpit. Lie on your side with your arm overhead. Slowly massage from the top of the arm to below the shoulder blade. Do not massage in the armpit area.

Upper Back
Place foam roller at on upper back. Massage from the top of the shoulders to the bottom of the rib cage. Roll your body 10 degrees to massage the spinal erectors (muscles that run parallel to the spine).

Place foam roller at on upper back. Massage from the top of the shoulders to the bottom of the rib cage. Roll your body 10 degrees to massage the spinal erectors (muscles that run parallel to the spine).

With foam roller on upper back, changing arm position will expose different muscles around the shoulder blade.

With foam roller on upper back, changing arm position will expose different muscles around the shoulder blade.

Other areas you can roll out are the calves, IT band (outside of thigh), quads (front of thigh), chest, and shoulders.

The first couple of weeks of foam roller therapy will be painful. It is important to be diligent and commit to doing it every day for two weeks, because the payoff is well worth it. If you use the foam roller every day, within a couple of weeks you will begin to notice not only does the exercise not hurt as much, it will begin to feel good and you will be on the path to feeling great.  Over time the muscle and fascial tissues heal, improving flexibility, function, and performance providing chronic pain relief and injury prevention.

When to foam roll?

  • When you hurt
  • Before you exercise
  • After you exercise
  • In the morning
  • Before bed
  • While watching TV
  • Just about any time is a good time

Self massage therapy on a foam roller offers an effective, inexpensive, and convenient way to reduce muscle tension and reduce scar tissue adhesion. Self-myofascial release can help you get relief and recovery from chronic pain and injury, improve athletic and work performance, and help you reach your health and fitness goals.

The Grid foam roller from Trigger Point Therapy

This is the foam roller I recommend: The Grid by Trigger Point Therapy

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