Foam rolling can be useful to help minimize the amount of adhesions in your connective tissue between massage sessions. These adhesions can eventually create points of weakness in the tissue, as tissue that isn’t contracting uniformly from one end to the other, could lead to muscular imbalances, injuries and pain. Foam rolling can also lead to better mobility by increasing blood flow in your tissues, and may help with recovery after a tough workout.
Indeed, foam rolling has a tremendous potential to help you move and feel better until your next appointment… but here is the catch: ONLY if it is done properly, as you may otherwise risk irritating or injuring your body further.
So, In the interest of helping you, help me in turning you into a “ninja”, and also because I do not want you to come back and say to me “but Chanty, YOU told me to use a foam roller and I hurt myself!”, here is a short list of five common mistakes people often make while using a foam roller, ok? :)
Mistake #1: You roll directly where you feel pain.
When we feel pain, our first inclination is to massage that spot directly. However, this might be a big mistake. “Areas of pain are the victims that result from tension imbalances in other areas of the body,”
Let’s take the IT band, for example. Foam rolling is a commonly prescribed remedy for iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS). While religiously rolling out your IT band might feel good, he idea that you are going to relax or release the IT band is a misconception. The phrase roll out your IT band itself makes it sound like you are rolling out a piece of dough, but your IT band is anything but pliable. It’s a remarkably strong piece of connective tissue, and research has shown that it cannot be released or manipulated by manual techniques such as foam rolling. If you iron out areas of inflammation, you can increase inflammation. And if you are in pain, your body will be too stressed to repair itself.
The fix: Go indirect before direct. If you find a spot that’s sensitive, it’s a cue to ease away from that area by a few inches. Take time and work a more localized region around areas that feel sore before using larger, sweeping motions. For the IT band, work on the primary muscles that attach to the IT band first — specifically the gluteus maximus (the largest muscle in the buttocks) and the tensor fasciae latae (a muscle that runs along the outer edge of the hip).
Mistake #2: You roll too fast.
While it might feel great to roll back and forth on a foam roller quickly, you’re not actually eliminating any adhesions that way.
The fix: Go slower so that the superficial layers and muscles have time to adapt and manage the compression. Feel where the tender spots are with the roller, and use short, slow rolls over that spot. There’s no reason to beat up the whole muscle if there are only a few sensitive areas.
Mistake #3: You spend too much time on those knots.
We’re often told that if you feel a knot, spend time working that spot with the foam roller. However, some people will spend five to 10 minutes or more on the same area and attempt to place their entire body weight onto the foam roller. If you place sustained pressure on one body part, you might actually hit a nerve or damage the tissue.
The fix: “Spend 20 seconds on each tender spot then move on. You can also manage how much body weight you use. For example, when working your IT band, plant the foot of your leg on the floor to take some of the weight off the roller.
Mistake #4: You have bad posture.
Wait, what does your posture have to do with foam rolling? A lot. You have to hold your body in certain positions over the roller, and that requires a lot of strength. When rolling out the IT band, for example, you are supporting your upper body weight with one arm. When you roll out the quads, you are essentially holding a plank position. If you don’t pay attention to your form or posture, you may exacerbate pre-existing postural deviations and cause more harm.
The fix: Work with an experienced personal trainer, or coach who can show you proper form and technique. Or, consider setting up your smartphone to videotape yourself while foam rolling, suggests Howard. That way, you can see what you are doing right and what you are doing wrong, like sagging in the hips or contorting the spine.
Mistake #5: You use the foam roller on your lower back.
You should NEVER foam roll your lower back. Your spine will freak out and all the spinal muscles will contract and protect the spine
The fix: Use the foam roller on your upper back because the shoulder blades and muscles protect the spine. Once you hit the end of the rib cage, stop. If you want to release your lower back, try child’s pose or foam roll the muscles that connect to your lower back . TIP: Pay special attention to the piriformis (a muscle located deep within the glutes), hip flexors and rectus femoris (one of the main muscles in your quads).
Most importantly, understand what the origin of your pain is before you start. Know what you are trying to achieve through foam rolling and how to do it properly.