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
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
Tensor Fascia Latte
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
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.