The Physio’s Guide To Foam Rolling

Need a sports mas­sage? Phys­io­ther­a­pist Hay­ley Schuter ex­plains how to go DIY for all the ben­e­fits at a frac­tion of the ex­pense

Women's Health (South Africa) - - CONTENTS -

Your cushy new fit­ness BFF

In an ideal world, you would spend way less time chained to your desk, en­joy a daily yoga prac­tice and go for reg­u­lar sports mas­sages. You would be able to touch your toes and you would never com­plain of a sore neck again. Here, in the real world, you need a hack for that kind of re­lief. And, if used cor­rectly, a foam roller can be it. “I love foam rolling be­cause it’s the clos­est thing to a mas­sage that we can do our­selves to help re­lieve tight or sore ar­eas in our mus­cles,” says phys­io­ther­a­pist Hay­ley Schuter, owner of HS Physio in Cape Town. “I reg­u­larly sug­gest foam rolling to my pa­tients be­cause it’s a tech­nique (if per­formed cor­rectly) that can help man­age tight­ness and stiff­ness and re­duce the risk of pain and in­jury.”

How it works

My­ofas­cial re­lease refers to the re­lease of ten­sion in the mus­cles and fas­cia, ex­plains Schuter. Fas­cia is a dense layer of con­nec­tive tis­sue that cov­ers many struc­tures in the body, in­clud­ing mus­cles, or­gans and joints, and al­lows them to func­tion smoothly with­out fric­tion. Mus­cles are gen­er­ally di­vided into two groups – those that move an area and those that sta­bilise an area. “The pres­sure you ap­ply dur­ing rolling helps both of th­ese to func­tion prop­erly by re­duc­ing re­stric­tions and im­prov­ing cir­cu­la­tion, which in turn pro­motes nat­u­ral heal­ing,” says Schuter. Sit­ting at a desk for hours, push­ing your­self too hard dur­ing ex­er­cise or at­tempt­ing a stren­u­ous move­ment that you’re not used to can lead to knots or trig­ger points in your mus­cles. You’ll feel a sore spot when your mus­cle is stretched, con­tracted or com­pressed. Th­ese re­stric­tions can also cause re­ferred pain – for ex­am­ple, a trig­ger point in your thigh mus­cle could cause pain in your knee. Fo­cus­ing on th­ese spots when you’re foam rolling – you’ll recog­nise them by the in­tense hurtsso-good pain you feel – can help them re­lease.

Do it right

It’s not as sim­ple as drap­ing your­self across a roller and shuf­fling back and forth. Th­ese are Schuter’s tips for get­ting the most out of your roller. Go slowly. Do at least 10 slow rolls in each po­si­tion. Breathe. It’s im­por­tant to keep breath­ing and not hold your breath so you can help cir­cu­late fresh oxy­gen to the mus­cles you’re rolling. Start sim­ple. If you’re new to foam rolling, start with a softer, smooth roller. You can work your way up to the firmer rollers and then bumpy ones – if you need them. Make it a rou­tine. Ide­ally you should roll three to five times a week. Three times would be more for main­te­nance; five times is what you need in or­der to work on a re­stric­tion. Stick it out. Rolling can be quite un­com­fort­able when you first start, but it does get eas­ier!

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