(Foam) Rolling Your Troubles Away

I like to encourage my patients to take an active part in the treatment of their musculoskeletal problems.  After all, what you do in between treatment sessions is just as important as what I do with you during a treatment session!

For the past 12 months, I’ve been trying to get more people on board with using a simple therapy tool at home called a foam roller.  It is a relatively inexpensive tool with some big benefits for your current problem and in preventing future problems.  They come in many sizes, lengths, materials and textures and range in price from $20 to $70 depending on which one you choose.  Often times, even the gym you currently work out at has them available for their members in the warm up area.

Why Should You Use A Foam Roller?

At Meridian Wellness, you’ve probably experienced various soft tissue techniques from myself (Dr. Keith) or Troy our massage therapist.  We’ve probably explained to you that the purpose of our treatment has been to help relieve tight muscles, reduce trigger points or adhesions or scar tissue, and improve the pliability of affected tissues which results in less pain and improved function.

With a foam roller, you can attain some similar benefits at home which will enhance your healing process and/or prevent injuries from recurring.  In a nutshell, you simply use your bodyweight over the foam roller on a muscle or tissue that you want to treat and apply pressure in a localized area or you can roll up and down through the area.  Although your self-treatment will not be as effective because of a lack of knowledge regarding anatomy and biomechanics, this simple method can still provide you some great results with minimal likelihood of hurting yourself.

What Will You Experience During A Rolling Session?

Let’s say you decide that you want to roll a simple area like your calf muscle.  Usually I instruct patients to to do a general, light roll up and down the length of the calf from just below the back of the knee to the upper Achilles tendon area.  What you will likely feel just with this cursory scan is that there will be some specific tender spots while other areas feel fine.  You may notice that you roll over little ‘speed bumps’ or muscle knots that are sore as you go over them.  Painful tissue is a sign of dysfunctional or bad tissue.  It needs some work.  And you can work both directly on the painful spots by applying more localized back and forth rolling over it or just continue to do long passes through the entire muscle with a bit more bodyweight pressure.

The amount of pressure you apply should be moderate.  Enough for you to feel ‘uncomfortable’ but not so much that you reflexively tighten up as you pass through the pain areas which would be counter-productive.  It takes some practice to get it right.  You should feel better after a rolling session, not worse!  And over time, as the tissue quality begins to improve, it also becomes less painful to roll.

When Should You Roll?

There isn’t any universal agreement amongst professionals as to when you should roll, how often to roll or how long to roll.  My general guidelines for patients are that you can roll every day as long as you are not more sore from the previous day’s session.  Try to roll at least once a day and if you are enjoying the benefits of it, even 3-4 times per day.  For each muscle or area you focus on, spend somewhere between 2-5 minutes depending on your tolerance and available time.

There’s a reason why the use of foam rollers have exploded over the past 5 years amongst health and fitness professionals.  It’s because it’s an very inexpensive way to improve injury recovery on your own time as well as reduce the likelihood of new or old injuries.   Whether you are young or old, male or female, a foam roller should be in your future.

If you need help with how to use the foam roller properly, swing by Meridian Wellness for a quick tutorial with me!

Until next month,

Dr. Keith

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