Whether you're an athlete, weekend warrior, or a sedentary individual, your muscles accrue very uncomfortable adhesions which might be causing your lower back pain and other joint pains. According to Beverly Hills-based orthopedic physician Dr Raj, "The body is surrounded by layers and layers of connective tissue called fascia. When fascia forms adhesions, the muscles are unable to perform at their intended capacity, which prevents normal movement. When this happens, muscles become strong and shortened around the joints while opposing muscle groups become weak and overstretched. This leads to muscle imbalances which ultimately can lead to an injury if not addressed."
Foam rolling was introduced by physical therapists for patients and strength and conditioning coaches to help athletes inhibit overactive muscles. Also known as self myofascial release or SMR, foam rolling offers a mini massage. Foam rolling is an excellent way to increase blood flow throughout the body, improve movement and increase joint range of motion. These benefits can decrease the risk of injury or the progression of an already existing injury. Foam rolling also decreases recovery time between workouts. How? To keep it simple, according to physical therapist from Back 2 Health Slava Shut, "Think of your muscles as having layers of fascia (or webbing) over them. When that fascia gets all intertwined due to poor posture, long periods of sitting or playing heavy sport, the muscles pull the joints in different directions than they are intended leading to altered joint movement and the issues mentioned above. Foam rolling will help break up the altered webbing patterns restoring the fascia to a clean and smooth surface again." Therefore, it is essential to work foam rolling into your daily routine to avoid overactive muscles or muscle imbalances as Slava mentioned.
The following routine includes some foam rolling exercises that should be done for one minute at a time on a daily basis. Using a timer, start foam rolling these areas and feel your muscles release the overuse adhesions that have formed over the years. You might experience a lot of discomfort when you first begin foam rolling. This is normal. Take deep breaths into the discomfort and the pain will dissipate. If you have osteoporosis, please consult your doctor before starting this program.
Place the foam roll perpendicular to your body on the front of your legs. On your forearms, roll the roller the entire length of your quads from the hips to right above your knee. For a deeper massage, bend both knees while you roll. Avoid overarching your lower back. To watch the video demonstration, click HERE.
The IT band is the band of fascia on the outside of your leg. Lying perpendicular to the roller on your side, place one leg on top of the other or use the top leg as a kickstand to take pressure off the IT band if it's too intense. Use your forearm to roll you up and down from your hip to right above your knee. To watch the video demonstration, click HERE.
This muscle is deep to your glutes. Sit on the foam roller and cross your right leg over your left quad (avoid crossing over the knee). Tilt your weight onto the right hip and roll back and forth to hit the piriformis, while balancing your right hand on the ground. To watch the video demonstration, click HERE.
Sit down, placing the foam roller perpendicular to one calf (lower part of your leg). Using the other leg to move you with your foot on the floor, roll the foam roller along the length of the calf. To watch the video demonstration, click HERE.
Sit down on the floor and extend your legs out in front of you. Position the foam roller perpendicular to your hamstrings, the back of your leg. Lift yourself up with your fists or palms and remaining mindful of your shoulder placement, roll back and forth the length of your hamstrings or back of your legs. To watch the video demonstration, click HERE.
Inner Thighs (Adductors):
Your adductors are your inner thighs. Lay down on your stomach with one leg abducted or out to the side with a bend in your knee. Position the foam roller perpendicular to the extended leg and lift yourself onto the roller until you can roll the length of the adductors towards your groin area, down to above your knee. To watch the video demonstration, click HERE.
Lay on the foam roller perpendicular to your back and lift your hips up a foot. With your hands cradling your neck for support, use the strength of your legs to roll yourself on the foam roller to relax the muscles that surround the spine. To watch the video demonstration, click HERE.
Lying on the foam roller with your spine along the length of the roller, place your arms out to the side like cactus arms and feel the stretch through your chest. You can even activate the stretch by reaching your arms overhead to work your pecs, shoulders, and back muscles through their range of motion. To watch the video demonstration, click HERE.
Photo and Video Credits: Ron Smith