Mel Collie | Do Foam Rollers Really Work?
Foam Rollers – all the rage, and I bought 8 of them a few years ago and used them in Pilates classes and on myself too, however, I have recently looked further into foam rolling and the science behind your brains reactions to this trend, and this is what I found..
Once you get to know your nervous system, what it sees as a threat, and reactions, foam rollers may not be your first choice in releasing tension & massaging to those painful trigger points and heres why…
1. The Foam roller is used a lot for massaging the outer edge of the thigh. This area is called your Tensor Fascia Latae, a band of fascia (web like connective tissue that is predominantly water – big hint there on how to help it be less tight) The muscular part of the TFL is at the pelvis , the iliac crest, between glute medium and sartorius. Anyhow, seeing videos on You Tube massaging the outside of your thigh on these white foam things (other colours are available..) can be doing you no favours at all. Your TFL is tight for a reason, a bit like your hamstrings, they won’t let go until they are happy that another muscle in your body is doing its job, so you may have some imbalances in your pelvis and thighs, possibly ankles and feet too. Get checked out and get a posture assessment. 🙂
2. Your nervous system is your CEO, its in charge, and will send tightness to your muscles if it feels you are under threat. So , imagine then, if you then go an massage your tight muscles with a hard foam roller, what does your brain think is going on if it feels pain? It will sense that you are under threat, won’t release tightness, will reduce movement and range, sending you back a step, rather than forward a step, which is where you want to be.
How can you assess yourself? Test your range – for example:
Standing with feet either together or hip bone distance, put your arms out in front of you, just lower than shoulder height and place the palms together, like my fellow climber in the picture below.
The turn to your right(keep pelvis and feet the same though, just turn upper body) then back to centre and to your left, note how far you can turn to on each side, there will be one side you find tighter or a reduced range of movement. Don’t hold your breath, keep good posture also.
Then , perform your foam rolling session, once you have finished, re assess your movement with the same drill.(this can be substituted for a toe touch as the forward bend range can be reduced if the nervous system feels threatened – think tight hamstrings and painful lower back)
You can do the same assessment when you exercise. A client came to me with nagging right side and right shoulder pain. During assessing him, we did some push ups , which were his usual warm ups and training exercises, and found that after the push ups, his rotation had decreased considerably which meant that he was either doing too many or his form wasn’t perfect during each push up.
Practicing his posture, breathing, and doing vision drills (which all help in push ups, especially if you keep the head in alignment but use your eyes to down as you descend, and up as you come back up – the down eye movement facilitates the flexor muscles in the thoracic, the up eye movement does the opposite)
Keep assessing your reactions, then you can tell if your brain is sensing threat, reducing your performance, increasing the possibility of injury.
Train safe for the best results, overtime, why would you choose not to?
Personal training, Pilates , nutrition and neurological training all rolled into one for the best results.