I like a massage, just like the next person (or runner, at least). But let’s face it, sports massages are not cheap! Just how much are we willing to do to keep running and exercising? For me, it depends on a few factors. If I am training for something, and it’s pretty close to race date, or if my insurance pays for it (some do), then I can justify a massage. Otherwise, it fits into the luxury category, and I usually do without. Although there really isn’t anything like a good deep tissue massage for tight muscles, these days I am relying more and more on the foam roller to do the job.
A foam roller costs about $15 to $35 and can be purchased online, from a physical therapist, or at many sports stores (even Wal-Mart). The foam roller can do many of the same things a massage therapist does. It stretches muscles and tendons, breaks down soft tissue adhesions, and soothes tight muscles. By using your own body weight and a cylindrical foam roller, you can perform self-massage or myofascial release, break up trigger points, and soothe tight fascia while increasing blood flow and circulation to the soft tissues.
It is not hard to use a foam roller, but it takes some practice. All you really need to do is position your body with the area you want to work on top of the foam roller, and roll over that area. Your body weight creates the pressure that actually then massages that problem area. The nice thing is that you control the pressure by applying more or less body weight on the foam roller, using your hands and feet to offset your weight as needed. Foam roller sessions ideally should be done after a run or workout, when your muscles are warm.
Here is a quick and dirty “How To”*:
1. Gently roll your body weight back and forth across the roller while targeting the affected muscle, moving slowly and working from the center of the body out toward your extremities.
2. Hold at the position of pain or tenderness until the area softens, focusing on areas that are tight or have reduced range of motion.
3. Roll over each area a few times (it may be uncomfortable) until you feel it relax (stay on soft tissue…not bone or joint).
4. Keep your first few foam roller sessions short…about 15 minutes, and rest a day between sessions when you start.
5. Drink plenty of water after a session, just as you would after a sports massage.
******Do not use a foam roller without your physician’s approval if your have any heart or vascular illness or a chronic pain condition.
Do you use a foam roller at home? What kind of muscle tightness have you used the foam roller to massage?