Have you ever seen someone at the gym rolling around on some cylinder looking thing wondering what in the world is that person doing? I am sure many of us have, including myself before I became familiar with it. That person is doing what is known as "foam rolling" or a pretty term for myofascial release, a self massage therapy.
If you workout frequently, or even if you don't but suffer from stiff muscles, poor posture, and limited range of motion then you should definitely invest in learning this technique. It is simple and cheap and can be very very beneficial if done regularly.
So what is it?
First some background, myofascia stands for the combination of our muscles and superficial fascia. Superficial fascia is a connective tissue that lies right under our skin that connects nerves, muscles, blood vessels and bone. When we overwork our muscles, adhesions can be formed in the fascia and muscle making it painful to do certain things, as well as limiting range of motion, flexibility, and everyday movement.
Foam rolling or "myofascial release" can also be referred to as self massage that is done to release these adhesions, muscle tightness and trigger points. You have heard of deep tissue massages and how they work the muscle to relieve tension and get blood flowing back to it and functioning properly, well think of this as the same way. It is not the most pleasant feeling in the world, but neither are tight muscles. It allows for restoration of healthy muscle tissue by getting normal blood flow back helping restore normal function and mobility. It also over time releases toxins that are built up in the muscle and reduces inflammation all over the body. It also reduces injury risk and can enhance performance! I mean why wouldn't you want to try this?! (Of course you have to do it regularly.)
So how do you do it?
First you need to get a cheapo foam roller, you can find them in athletic stores like Dicks, or Sports Authority, online on Amazon (or anywhere just google) to TJ Maxx, for pretty cheap! They vary in firmness, so starting out I would recommend staying soft or medium. You use your body weight so all you need is you and the roller!
You apply moderate pressure to a muscle or muscle group using your body weight. For example start with your hamstrings and roll over it until you find an area that is tight with noticeable pain and apply pressure to that area for a few seconds until you feel the muscle start to relax and release. Work your way up to about 30 seconds if you can. I recommend using on most muscle groups except your lower back and neck, and not over joints. Also if you are having severe pain in an area always consult your physical therapist or physician before starting, just like any workout regimen.
You need to think of this like a massage in that you may be sore the next day. Start slow and work your way up to longer periods of time on certain areas and trigger points. If you stay consistent with it you will notice improvement in range of motion, joint stress, and enhanced performance in certain activities.
I hope this helps and let me know if you try it out what you think! J