For runners athletes or people who exercise, there are so many benefits of foam rolling for our sore muscles and tight fascia. We can use it on almost every muscle of our body, from our calves, all the way up to our shoulders and neck.
Even if we have been sitting for many hours for work, foam rolling our back just feels so good and releases a lot of the knots.
However, just like any other effective training or recovery tool, it is possible to use foam rollers the wrong way, which will cause some muscle issues.
Foam rollers are so good and helpful muscle release tools for runners. Some of the most common mistakes runners or athletes make when using the foam roller, we should learn how to avoid any mistakes so we can use the correct foam rolling techniques, and use the best foam rolling exercises to help us stay injury free and relaxed.
Running causes our muscles to go through a constant process of breakdown and repair.
Over time this causes the muscles to become tight when the fascia, the connective tissue that surrounds the muscles, starts to thicken and shorten to protect the underlying muscle from further damage.
Sometimes the fibres and fascia contract so much that they form trigger points, which indicates sore spots needing to be released.
Fascia also has the ability to contract independently of the muscles it surrounds. It responds to stress without our conscious command. That is a problem, which means fascia is impacting our movements, for better or worse.
Fascia is made primarily of densely packed collagen fibres that penetrate our muscles, bones, nerves, blood vessels and organs. There is no place in our body where fascia doesn’t exist.
When fascia becomes restricted, adhesions form causing soreness, restricted movement, gait change and potential injury. For example, tight fascia around our IT Band can cause our IT Band syndrome, meaning our knee cap will track incorrectly.
If we loosen the muscles around our it band, our knee cap begins tracking correctly and our knee stops hurting.
Benefits of foam rolling to support our fascia
Foam rolling, also known as myofascial release, is the application of pressure to eliminate scar-tissue and soft-tissue adhesion by freeing up our fascia, which can release our trigger points and fascia. Once released, each problems tight fascia and muscles have caused usually clears up.
The goal of myofascial therapy is to stretch and loosen the fascia so that it and other structures can move more freely, which will decrease muscle and joint pain, increase circulation and improve mobility, balance and gait for peak performance.
Myofascial release through the use of a foam roller helps us become a stronger, faster, less injury-prone runner or athlete.
There is some evidence that foam rolling after running or high-intensity exercise may help decrease perceived pain from DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness).
Decreasing muscle soreness and maintaining flexibility can help with overall muscle performance and tissue recovery.
Foam rollers are often used as part of a warm-up and for muscle recovery.
No side effects on performance have been found when foam rolling as part of a warm-up.
The benefits of foam rolling may be more significant when combined with a consistent static stretching program post-training.
7 Mistakes To Avoid When Foam Rolling
1. Don’t Roll Too Quickly
Our body needs a bit of time to feel the pressure and produce any physiological changes.
A quick 1-2 over an area is a waste of time. It’s best to keep rolling, but not too long.
Ideally, we should spend 60-90 seconds per muscle group, targeting a tender muscle area for about 30 seconds.
More than this is not necessary and could increase soreness or cause bruising, rather than decrease.
2. Don’t Press Too Hard
Too much pressure can cause bruising and increase pain or tissue damage.
Finding the right pressure helps improve a relaxation response from the nervous system to get the most benefit out of foam rolling.
Sometimes, just the weight of our body on the roller can be too much. To use support from our arms and legs will adjust how much pressure we’re using.
Also, we can use a softer density roller for less pressure.
3. Don’t Hold Your Breath
The main reason why we’re foam rolling is probably to relieve tension and tight muscles.
This process is much bigger than what’s going on locally at the muscle level, it includes the entire nervous system. The nervous system ultimately controls how we perceive muscle tightness.
Controlled deep breathing is a quick and natural version for better blows into the nervous system. Deep breathing taps into the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest) and promotes relaxation. We can’t hold our breath if we really want that tight muscle to loosen up.
4. Understand The Difference Between Discomfort Versus Pain
Differentiating between sensations is an essential part of what listening to our body means.
Foam rolling is not comfortable. It’s often described as intense feelings, similar to a deep tissue massage. The goal of foam rolling is pain relief, not more pain. If an area is exceptionally painful, it is better to avoid that area.
If we find foam rolling very uncomfortable, we should try a lighter density foam roller or a vibration foam roller. We can also try various positions and support ourself with our upper body to decrease the amount of bodyweight through an area.
5. Don’t Roll Over Joints
We should focus only on areas over muscle tissue and avoid pressure over joints, tendons, ligaments, or other soft tissue structures.
This also includes the low back. It’s perfectly fine to roll the muscles surrounding the lower back, but we need to avoid direct pressure on the vertebrae.
To get deeper into the paraspinals, the muscles that run along the sides of the spine, it is a better option to use a Rollga foam roller (a small massage roller version).
6. Understand Why You Foam Roll
Foam rolling can’t fix everything. We need to make sure we have a rhyme and reason to foam roll and not just follow other people’s type of foam rolling. We need to focus on our body and muscles.
One of the most common mistakes is to aggressively rolling over the IT Band.
It’s a common misconception that using a foam roller over the IT band will help stretch or loosen it. Actually, the IT Band is a thick stabilizing structure and doesn’t stretch.
7. Precautions & When To Avoid Foam Rolling
Here are some examples of when foam rolling might not be safe, and cause more damage or injuries. With these muscle and body symptoms we should see a physical therapist.
Direct pressure over body prominences (such as the lumbar spine and lateral hip)
Direct pressure over arteries, veins, nerves, abdomen
Other medical conditions
Perform Some Nice Foam Rolling Sessions Regularly, Support Good Muscle Release To Avoid Injuries and Enjoy Nice Runs!