So, you have tried foam rolling and just don’t like it! You may have searched out every video on YouTube, followed multiple foam rolling experts on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook and attempted to go at it alone. You may have bought multiple types of foam rollers that did not seem to work or maybe foam rolling is just not for you? Yes! You may be 100% correct. Foam rolling is not a science, it is an art. Some body styles are not cut out for that cylinder shaped piece of dense foam. However, The benefits of daily foam rolling are well documented and studied. If you subscribe to a daily foam rolling regimen you are likely suffer less back pain, neck pain, hip disjointed related discomfort, your sex drive has increased and you are just a happier and more relaxed person! Physical therapists, chiropractors, massage therapists, some doctors, trainers, yoga experts and many other experts all agree foam rolling is extremely effective at restoring healthy posture, range of motion and even improving overall circulation. Unfortunately for you foam rolling has not been any of those things!
Foam rolling and emerging myofacial release methods are new to injury recovery, physical therapy and the fitness world. It is not all about foam rolling, there are other tools that can aid in the progress of injury recovery. Lucky for you there are so many tools available that can aid in a “foam rolling like” experience without all the discomfort & confusion that you have been experiencing during your foam rolling sessions. But, before you throw away all those useless torture devices ask yourself these key questions to determine if you have been doing it correctly:
- Is your foam roller too hard, semi-hard or more of a medium density that keeps you from experiencing a therapeutic effect?
- Is your foam roller smooth or bumpy (textured)?
- Are you trying to move fast on the foam roller or are you moving slowly and smoothly?
- How much time are you spending on your foam roller weekly?
- Are you being consistent in keeping a daily foam rolling regimen?
- Do your muscles release at all and if they do, do you still continue to foam roll them or do you just quit?
- What frame of mind are you in before your foam rolling session? Mad? Sad? Relaxed? Tensed?
- What past injuries have led to muscle related injuries or chronic pain in areas you are rolling out?
- Is the pain you experience pressure, stinging pain or soreness type of pain related discomfort?
- Are you wearing loose clothing or is your hair getting in the way resulting in an annoyed experience?
Before you move on and throw away your foam roller lets examine those key questions. First, I would suggest that you have both a medium density foam roller and high density roller. The medium density is great for those days your muscles are sensitive and they are good for those with past injuries. Next, smooth foam rollers are the way to go vs those bumpy ones. Muscles are smooth so it makes sense that you need a smooth round surface that complements the underlying tissue you are stretching-out. It is always recommended to move slowly and smoothly on a foam roller. What is the rush, slow down, breathe and work into the affected area(s). Adopt a 5-10-min per day regimen of foam rolling. If it seems that you have been rolling out an area that is sore but are unsuccessful at releasing the tensed up muscle try to discover whether or not the injury resulted in a further associated area; in the medical field it is called “referred pain.” Always think “the pain originates somewhere else above the area that feels tensed.” Always seek a relaxing environment when you decide to foam roll. Listening to inspiring music while infusing essential oils combined with deep controlled breathing will improve your overall experience thus give you better results. As you foam roll make sure you are feeling “pressure pain” vs. a “stinging pain.” Some adhesion’s have been fermenting for some time so it will take more than a week sometimes to smooth out that painful area. Be persistent, roll smartly and choose the correct foam roller, but if that did not work, consider other ways to roll out those painful knots.
1. Lacrosse Ball & Atlas Half Foam Roller Pad
One of the simplest yet most effective myofascial release tools is a lacrosse ball! Trust me, if you doubt that a small ball that is traditionally used in that competitive game with long sticks with nets on the end I was right there with you! Around a year ago I was thrown off my Trek road bicycle, tumbled forward twisting up my neck in so many unnatural directions. What saved me? My trusty lacrosse ball! Foam rollers are great for broad strokes but the lacrosse ball methods cut deep into a sore knotted up muscle better than a foam roller does. Imagine the lacrosse ball as a trusty massage therapist that digs a tireless thumb deep into your tensed up convoluted tissue. That action is why the lacrosse ball is a classic trustworthy favorite among most athletes & therapists.
One of my favorite lacrosse ball methods is placing the ball just under that “bony back of the skull prominence” or “occipital process/protuberance.” Here you are hitting the sub-occipital trigger points. After the lacrosse ball is in position place a foam roller or half foam roller securely under the lower or lumbar region of your back. Next, look up slightly towards the ceiling or make sure your chin is just above a neutral position placing force on the lacrosse ball. Now, rotate your head looking left to right; at this point you should feel the lacrosse ball massaging the left side and right side of the occipital muscles of the skull. As you look left to right you feel the ball massaging or digging into those tender pressure point areas. Those areas are important muscle/tendon articulating areas of the skull. You may experience post “roll-out” muscle soreness and that is 100% normal. That soreness lasts approximately 2-3 days.
Stretch Therapy has proven that this method works, is easy to perform and can be accomplished by all fitness levels. Only spend 15-20 min maximum amount time releasing, stretching and rolling muscles of the head and neck. Take a break. As you move throughout your day the tension may come back, so attack it again for 15-20 min. You can actually perform these methods in your car, on a wall, on the ground or anywhere you can find a flat surface that is stable.
Benefits of this simple yet highly effective method are:
- Headache Relief that is a result from over active muscles of the head & neck.
- Occipital Neuralgia relief or a form of associated tension headache relief.
- Better mental clarity, focus & more relaxation.
- More alertness from a massive amount of endorphin release.
- Myofascial release of the sub-occipital trigger points.
- Relief from cluster headaches.
- Improve vascular circulation & muscle tone.
- Aids in strengthening underlying bone or cervical region that is affected by chronic stress.
2.The Muscle Pique Stick Roller
If you are unlikely to trust a small ball like the lacrosse ball & a foam roller then a handheld muscle roller is your next purchase. The muscle roller featured in the above and below picture is called “Muscle Pique Stick Roller” and is one of the highest quality hand crafted foam rollers that is Made in USA! This roller can be used on the inner & outer thighs, calves, shins, scapula and my favorite, the neck. How many times a day are you grabbing at your neck but can’t seem to effectively massage out that tension spot that you have been waking up with every morning. You know, that spot that keeps you from thinking clearly & that spot that has just simply become a part of you because you have accepted defeat! This muscle roller can easy cut through that annoyingly painful adhesion.
How is that small bread style roller effective and why even do it? Let’s say you are working out, doing head stands, riding your bike, grabbing your crazed ADHD child, doing the laundry for 4, moving a patient from one bed to another or simply sleeping wrong, you are lying to yourself if you think that your body in invincible to muscle strains. Unanticipated injuries happen throughout our short lifetime. It is not “if” but “when” you will experience an event. What are you going to do about that muscle strain? A doctor is unlikely going to have a answer for you other than surgery, stretching alone won’t cut it and taking advil is just blatantly ineffective and unsustainable. So, roll the pain out! it is that easy. Muscle rollers are effective, easy to carry around, TSA friendly, inexpensive, long lasting, crucial for those small adhesion’s that foam rollers are unable to penetrate and most importantly they offer pain relief!
3. Lacrosse Ball & Tiny Roller
The “small things” approach is extremely effective against all forms of tendon & joint tension related pain. Imagine that you just ran a marathon, rode all over the city, sat in traffic for hours or completed a heavy squat day workout, what are you going to do for that soreness & muscle tension that is inevitable? Remember, you hate foam rolling and you can not stretch because your muscles are extremely tight! You knock out the pain with both a lacrosse ball and small roller. You use the small roller to take ground friction away from disrupting the harmony & discord you are experiencing as you roll out your glutes. The lacrosse ball will dig deep into the deepest parts of your glut muscles. If you dare to try this move you will love it and hate it at the same time. Although this move looks excruciatingly painful, the relief that you will experience will leave you addicted to this method.
Stretch Therapy Methods:
- Place the lacrosse ball in the center of you left glut (butt cheek).
- Place a small roller or sliding device under the left calf or heel.
- Start moving North & South direction
- Move you hips in a circular direction
- Place the lacrosse ball at the point where your hamstrings and glut muscles cross then perform a “sit-&-reach.”
- Place the lacrosse ball in a tender spot around the hip joint then simply compress (no rolling necessary).
- Place the lacrosse ball under your knee, then flex your quads as you micro-roll or perform a sit-&-reach.
- Find a “knot” or tender spot then simply sit on that spot until it releases.
We lead very busy distracted lives. Advertising, work, kids, activities and relationships demand & take up your personal time. They demand lots of time. Do not forget that you need to take care of your muscles regularly. There is so much to think about now. You are being told to eat right, work out, see your doctor regularly, sleep better, reduce stress better and now massage your body regularly! It is overwhelming but you must understand that it is vital to avoid arthritis, muscle degeneration, osteoarthritis, sarcopenia and a future recommended surgery to fix all those problems you neglected over the years. Problems arise from, work, bad posture, car accidents, poor mattresses, old or odd shoes, exercise related injury, exercise related muscle over-excursion, kids and life stuff. All it takes is 5-min a day focusing on those little areas of the neck, glutes, back, hips and feet that all add up to cause you future musculoskeletal problems. Myofascial muscle massage is easy, cheap and vital to your aging muscle to age well.