I’m sure most of you have no idea what I’m talking about, but everyone should.
Ever had a massage? I mean a good, deep tissue massage? It hurts like mad while it’s being done, you’ll find tight and knotted muscles you didn’t know you had, but when you are done, don’t you feel so much better? Possibly a bit sore the next day, but much looser, and if you got them frequently, you would probably move a lot more freely, your clothes might fit a little looser due to less knotting of the muscles and water retention and as an added bonus you would probably sleep a lot better. So why don’t we get massages more often? Well, cost can be an issue as can having oil/lotion worked into your hair. We want these benefits;but what do we do?
My friends, let me introduce you to the foam roller; the poor man’s massage therapist. It comes in varying sizes and lengths but in general, it’s about 36 inches long, looks like a pool noodle but is as hard as a brick.
To use, roll yourself strategically and slowly back and forth (one inch per second) over this device, focusing on the most tender spot. When you find the most “tender” (read: painful) spot, stay on it for 20-30 seconds. Hopefully you will feel some release as the trigger point/knot/adhesion begins to release and the muscle regains its normal range of motion. This should be done before every workout as part of your initial warm-up and is also good to use later, especially before bed.
In athletic work, this helps muscles repair, facilitates stretching, promotes joint flexibility and stimulates blood flow/toxin flushing. In musicians, all of the above are just as true. With musicians, a tennis ball may be more of your friend, as it is easier to access your upper body muscles. Please see the attached videos and articles for descriptions. Rolling out the lats, upper back and thoraic attention will help a lot with musicians, because we tend to slouch over to our instruments and this can roll out our weak/tight muscles.
Those who should either not use a foam roller or get a doctor’s permission first are those who:
- have osteoporosis or weak bones
- the obese with trouble getting up and down from the floor
- those who cannot support their body weight from the arm
- Severe Diabetics with reduced circulation in their lower limbs
- People with vericose veins (NEVER roll directly over a vein, the rest of the body is appropriate)
A note to those who have either low bone density (osteoporosis), are out-of-shape or overweight or the severely diabetic: you should know that the arms are heavily involved in foam rolling as they support your body weight while you are rolling. You should also know that foam rolling can be painful and you should be able to distinguish the difference between pain and injury. If you are not sure, go get a deep tissue massage with trigger point therapy and that will give you a better idea of what to expect. Foam rolling should never cause bruising.
Other articles you might want to investigate:
Here’s a video to help you see how to use it: