Monday, 30 June 2014

Foam rolling - cheaper than massage!

It's my theory that everyone has an 'Achilles heel'. For some that may mean back pain that prevents them from  performing sit ups, for others weak knees that rule out running and for me, my right shoulder, which affects my ability to lift decent weights in certain ways. I've brought this weakness on myself through years of slouching about, draping heavy bags on the same side of my body and tippy tapping on keyboards (and now screens) for a living. Since I can't afford a decent massage every week but want to carry on with my Body Pump classes I thought I'd try out a foam roller.


Shoulder pain
Can be used to replace Jason Statham 

A what now? 

A foam roller is a foam cylinder, which basically looks like a rolled up yoga mat! They are designed to provide 'self-myofascial release', which basically means that you can use them to provide self massage to release muscle tightness and 'trigger points' (knots). The pressure from your body weight that the foam roller applies to various parts of your body allows it to resume normal blood flow and function where there is a problem. You probably know which parts of your body could do with a massage, so that is where you could use a foam roller.



Which one?

Foam rollers vary in length, shape and density. Your first decision should be how firm you want your roller based on your experience level. Typically the rollers are colour-coded, white rollers being the softest, then blue or green being medium-density rollers and the black being the firmest. If you are a complete beginner you can also buy rollers which are only a semi-circle, so they won't roll off as you lean on them. I started with this blue roller from PhysioWorld in the 90x15cm size. Different lengths allow you to use the roller just from left to right or to have your whole body supported on the roller, which is ideal for me and my hurty (that's a technical term) shoulders. You can also get rollers that feature sticky out bits (like the 'RumbleRoller'), which are best left to the experts!

How to


Obviously I'm not a doctor - or a physiotherapist - so I can only tell you what I did! If you're lucky enough to know a specialist in this area I'd definitely tap them up for some professional guidance on how to 'foam roll'. Just bear in mind though that the general rule is that you should roll slowly and should never be in proper pain (although it might feel uncomfortable, akin to a stretch). If you have a painful area that is too sensitive to roll on, you should work areas near it first gradually and try those that are connected to it too, which may help to alleviate some of the problem (you know, since the body is all connected anyway the place you're experiencing the pain might not actually be the root cause).

There are also a few 'don'ts' like don’t foam roll joints or injured tissue. Don't go crazy or for too long either - this is a build-it-up-gradually thing. You should also make sure you are not repeating poor posture techniques while you're rolling (maybe video yourself to see your 'form'?). The other big no-no is foam rolling your lower back - stop at the bottom of the rib cage. And some therapists would recommend leaving neck pain to professionals too. In fact there's a whole range of other products for that!

To learn how to use my roller for my shoulders I went online - primarily to YouTube - where there are tons of videos that demonstrate various ways to use a foam roller for specific parts of your body. Check a load out (ideally those recorded by trained professionals!) and then gently try a few yourself.

Did it work?

I'm pleased to say my foam roller does help me with my shoulders. I'd prefer a massage every week natch, but that is not going to happen because of time and money constraints. However I can easily fit in a short sesh on my foam roller if my shoulders are tight, when I come home from the gym or just before bed. The foam roller is also fairly easy to tuck out of the way, either under the bed or up against the wardrobe. Obviously I had to ban the kids from playing about with it, because I don't want to find it covered in mud and upended in the paddling pool one day. In lieu of a live-in masseuse that resembles Jason Statham, my foam roller is a useful addition to my life. And  if you're ever passing by my house and you see my on the floor rolling about by myself you'll know what I'm up to - right??!

Do you have an Achilles heel? Something that holds you back from working out? Could a foam roller help you - or do you have another way of dealing with pain or injuries? Let me know in the comment box below.

Tank you for reading
Vanessa.

14 comments:

  1. I am a firm believer in the foam roller and have been using one on and off since I discovered that my knee pain was due to tightness in the ilotibial band. I dont use it often enough but it really does help.

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    1. Ooo, that's interesting, I have a friend who has knee pain - I hope she's reading this! I do have to make myself roll even when my shoulder isn't hurting - and I'm also finding it easier to remember to relax my shoulders at other times! Thanks for commenting.

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  2. I saw something like this on Dr. Oz a while back and thought it would be great for my grandma with RA. After being slumped over my laptop working on a project for weeks, I may give a shot myself! Thanks for the reminder!

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    1. Desk work is definitely bad for your health! Years ago, computers were much larger and the keyboard was usually higher up. I've also started to raise my laptop using old Next directories!

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  3. I alternately love/loathe my foam roller, if you know what I mean.

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    Replies
    1. I'm still in the infatuation stage clearly!

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  4. I have seen these in the gym that I used to go to but never tried them. I didn't think about purchasing one for myself. I have lower back problems so this would help. Thanks!

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    1. I haven't seen them in my gym, but had a friend that was training for a marathon that was using one of IT band problems, and then I Googled it and was not disappointed! Thanks for commenting.

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  5. I have two - one long and slender and one short and stout. (And a couple of foam rollers too, tee hee!)

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  6. Yes true. Foam rollers are tube shaped self-massage devices that help you work out those knots and tight spots that are constantly nagging you. I originally began to use a foam roller while I was training for a marathon. A close friend of mine who works with elite athletes recommended it after I complained of hip tightness.

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