Why foam rolling isn’t a cure

Yoga Journal - - PRACTICE WELL -

It seems log­i­cal that if you’re deal­ing with IT Band Syn­drome, mas­sag­ing the ten­don with a foam roller might help. And while it will likely pro­vide tem­po­rary re­lief af­ter­ward (there’s a good chance it’ll also hurt like heck while you’re rolling!), it’s my firm be­lief that ar­bi­trary foam rolling of your IT band can do more harm than good. Here’s why: For starters, ex­ces­sive rolling can fur­ther ir­ri­tate an ag­gra­vated IT band ten­don, wors­en­ing ex­ist­ing mi­cro-tears. Plus, some of the re­lief that comes af­ter a foam-rolling ses­sion may be the re­sult of stim­u­lated stretch re­cep­tors in the vas­tus lat­er­alis, the lat­eral quadri­ceps mus­cle that lies be­neath your IT band. While this quad-ten­sion re­lief can slightly re­lieve IT band pain, it doesn’t negate the po­ten­tial ad­di­tional dam­age caused by the foam roller. Fi­nally, if you foam roll your IT band while ig­nor­ing the all-im­por­tant glu­teus max­imus and ten­sor fas­ciae latae, you’re not ad­dress­ing the un­der­ly­ing cause of pain.

In­stead of foam rolling, try Ball Plow

First, use ther­apy balls on your glu­teus max­imus and ten­sor fas­ciae latae. Place the balls be­tween your mus­cles and the floor, then ease the weight of your body onto the balls, tak­ing deep breaths as the balls sink deep into your tis­sue. Stay here for 2 min­utes per mus­cle group. As you lie on the balls, try tens­ing and re­leas­ing these mus­cles a few times to fur­ther re­lax the mus­cles and their con­nec­tions to the IT band. Then, use ther­apy balls on the out­side of your thigh, which will help to im­prove hip me­chan­ics and ul­ti­mately re­store proper IT band func­tion—with­out risk­ing ad­di­tional dam­age. It’s im­por­tant to avoid try­ing to “roll out” or “loosen” your IT band, as it could worsen its con­di­tion. In­stead, use the ther­apy balls to tar­get the mo­bil­ity of the mus­cles un­der­neath the IT band: the quadri­ceps. In the fol­low­ing re­lease ex­er­cise (“Ball Plow,” be­low), mov­ing the ther­apy balls in super-slow mo­tion helps to coax mo­bil­ity into these deeper mus­cles. The balls will likely come in con­tact with your IT band at times, so limit your pres­sure at highly sen­si­tive points. At­tempt to ap­ply pres­sure that helps to cre­ate a re­lax­ation re­sponse in the deep thigh mus­cles be­low the IT band. The prac­tice be­low will help you to home in on the right spots. If rolling feels painful, back off. This should feel like a tol­er­a­ble stretch, leav­ing the area feel­ing warm and re­freshed.

1 Rest on your side and place a pair of Yoga Tune Up Ther­apy Balls (or other small, pli­able balls) on the out­side of your thigh, to­ward the junc­tion be­tween your quads and ham­strings, nestling the balls into a re­gion that is di­rectly be­low your IT band. 2 Let the balls sink in for 10 breaths. Imag­ine that they’re dock­ing them­selves be­tween your quads and ham­strings.

3 Mov­ing slowly, use the weight of your thigh to guide the balls for­ward (across the thigh, not length­wise). You’ll use the deeply docked ther­apy balls to move your quads around your fe­mur, mo­bi­liz­ing the lat­eral (out­side) quad away from the ham­strings and cre­at­ing a stretch be­tween the bone and your quads. If done cor­rectly, it will feel like a large hand is piv­ot­ing your thigh mus­cle around the bone.

4 Ther­apy balls will nat­u­rally roll (they are spheres, af­ter all). Try to min­i­mize rolling by us­ing them to plow the en­tire sec­tion of mus­cle, which will cause your thigh to in­ter­nally ro­tate. 5 Re­peat for up to 10 min­utes, mov­ing slowly from the out­side of your thigh to­ward the mid­dle, then switch legs.

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