Rolling Techniques to Relieve Pain, Discomfort and Tension
Everyone has dealt with sore, tense or cramped muscles from time to time and as a physical therapist, I regularly see patients in our clinics who benefit from soft tissue work to help ease muscular tension and decrease pain. Soft tissue is the tissue that connects parts of the body to each other; this includes muscles, tendons, vessels and even peripheral nerves.
While physical therapy regularly consists of 1-2 visits per week, it is beneficial to continue doing soft tissue work more frequently. Patients are encouraged to perform their own self-myofascial release (SMR), which loosens the soft tissue, increases flexibility and decreases tightness and pain. SMR can be done when experiencing discomfort or before or after exercise. Here are some ways to perform SMR on your own.
A lacrosse ball is made of dense rubber and does not give way when pressure is placed on it. It is the perfect size to get into some hard to reach places and it’s affordable and easy to take with you pretty much anywhere!
- Feet and Achilles – Sit or stand and roll the lacrosse ball under the arch of the foot, which is great for plantar fasciitis or just tired, sore arches. It can also be helpful for a sore Achilles tendon. Sit and use your hand to smash both the inside and the outside of your Achilles, paying more attention to areas with soreness.
- Hips – Roll out the side, back, and front of your hip either against the wall or lying on the floor. These areas can need attention without even knowing that you are tight! This is especially helpful for low back pain.
- Shoulder area – Spend time rolling out the front of your shoulder (the pectoral muscles), the upper trapezius muscles (which look like a triangle that runs from the base of your head, to mid-back, to shoulder), and the back of your shoulder to help loosen tension and to improve posture.
Foam rollers come in different sizes and densities. As a physical therapist, my preference is a firm one, but some people think that is too uncomfortable. Use whatever density feels right to you.
- Upper back/thoracic area – Lay with your upper back over the foam roller and roll up and down. It can also be good to spend some time lying over the foam roll to open up the chest and thoracic area.
- Legs – The foam roller can be great to use over quads, groin, IT band and hamstrings! Lie over the foam roll and slide your body over the foam as the roller moves underneath your muscles.
There is no perfect amount of time to roll out a certain area, but I suggest using these rolling techniques on any, and all, areas where you feel discomfort! Both of these methods are great to use before and after exercise as well as any time you are feeling tight or sore.
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