Roll Your Way into Injury Prevention

Many recreational athletes, particularly runners, experience bouts of muscle soreness and, in some circumstances, overuse injuries. These injuries may include, knee pain, shin splints, and plantar fasciitis, to name a few. These overuse injuries are usually a result of the repetitive nature of training, which in part can lead to muscle tightness, adhesion build up, and altered joint mechanics. The good news is that over time injury prevention methods have evolved, including the technique of self- myofascial release (SMR). SMR can feel like a deep tissue massage and, like massage therapy, has numerous benefits which include improved flexibility, decrease in muscle knots/adhesions, and improved joint mechanics to name a few.  Plus, SMR is a great way to speed up recovery from previous workouts and is an effective way to keep any nagging injuries away before they start. SMR is best facilitated with the use of massage sticks or a foam roller. Foam rollers are an absolute must for any runner, weekend warrior, or gym rat. The cost ranges from $20 – $60 depending on which model you select, length, firmness, etc. You can purchase one locally at Boise Fitness Equipment or online from Perform Better.

Guidelines for SMR:
• Once you roll over a tight area, stop and rest on the “hot spot” for 20 – 30 seconds. You should experience a decrease in discomfort or feel the muscle release during this time. Continue further along the muscle until you find the next “hot spot.” This usually doesn’t take long for the first time user.
• Hold only to the point of tolerance, you should not experience sharp pain. Slight discomfort is what you are shooting for, similar to a deep tissue massage. Many manufacturers offer foam rollers with different densities depending on your pain threshold.
• Remember to breathe, maintain good posture, and engage your core muscles.
• Repeat 1 – 3 times/side.
• For optimal results, SMR can be done daily or at a minimum of 3x/week.

Here are my favorite specific SMR activities:

IT band: Lie on your right side, supported by your right elbow; keep head in neutral and ears aligned with shoulders. Place roller under right thigh and place left leg over and in front of the right leg. Roll just below hip joint down to the lateral thigh to the knee.

Piriformis/glutes: Sit on full roller and cross right ankle over left knee. Roll on the right hip area while pulling the right knee toward the opposite shoulder to increase the stretch. To massage the glutes, sit on the roller with feet and hands in front. Push roller backward with buttocks.

Quadriceps: Lie on your belly with the foam roller above your knees and elbows bent with forearms touching the floor. Pull the abdominals in and tighten glutes to help prevent the back from sagging. Roll from pelvic bone to the knee emphasizing the front and lateral thigh.

Calves:  Position the foam roller just above your heel at the achillies tendon with the opposite leg stacked on top. Using the weight of your leg and by lifting your hips, roll towards the top of your calf by using your arms to push your body forward.  Reposition your arms as needed to minimize any fatigue.  Rotate your leg to work both the inner and outer portions of the calf as well.