Are you feeling tight and sore after running? Foam rolling, a type of self-massage that works out adhesions in muscle and neighboring connective tissue, is ideal for relieving your symptoms and getting you back to running without pain. When used correctly, foam rolling cannot only control your pain, but also improve your posture and boost your performance.
While foam rolling seems simple, most runners use an incorrect technique, which actually impairs recovery and can lead to injury. Below we’ll outline 5 of the most common foam rolling mistakes that runners make, and actionable tips on how to avoid them.
Many runners assume that rolling directly on a painful area will help to ease the pain. However, this doesn’t work for a couple of reasons:
Solution: Instead of continuously working directly on the painful area, gently foam roll away from the trouble spot to the connecting muscles. Work the connecting muscles thoroughly, and then return to the painful area and work lightly. This strategy allows you to avoid triggering excess inflammation and also targets the cause of the injury.
Rolling too fast doesn’t give your muscles sufficient time to adjust to and handle the compression. Additionally, foam rolling too quickly only addresses the superficial level of fascia and doesn’t have an impact on the deep muscle tissue that you really want to target.
Solution: Foam roll for 30 minutes during your recovery or rest day, and then do light stretching. If you have dedicated just a few minutes to foam rolling, spend your time releasing a few muscles in a gentle and regulated manner as opposed to rolling every muscle.
If a particular muscle doesn’t seem to loosen, working on it continuously will most likely result in increased pain.
Solution: If you are having trouble releasing a specific knot, work beyond or beneath that muscle. For instance, if you come across a persistent knot in your quadriceps, work more on the surrounding muscles, such as the hip flexors.
There is nothing wrong with foam rolling at night; in fact, it can help you relax your body and result in adequate, restful sleep. However, not rolling during the morning hours prevents your muscles from functioning properly throughout the day.
Putting a foam roller directly below your neck or lower back can lead to strain and hyperextension. This action exerts more pressure on the spine and takes it out of its natural alignment and may lead to back pain.
Solution: Working your muscles in the morning will strengthen your body and improve your range of motion.
To eliminate discomfort on your lower back, work on the muscles that attach to it, including your piriformis (found within your glutes), rectus femoris (a major muscle present in your quads), and hip flexors.
You will definitely break a sweat when foam rolling due to the hard work and energy involved. Remember, using this equipment requires you to support your body in a wide array of positions. If you use a bad or incorrect posture, it could worsen the existing knots, leading to injury.
Solution: Every time you are rolling, make sure you are in a correct posture to preserve spinal integrity.
If you have never foam rolled before, start slow with a brief session using slight pressure. Over time, you can make sessions longer and increase the pressure that you use. Although you can foam roll both pre- and post-workout, pre-workout sessions should concentrate on problem areas, while the post-workout ones should target all sets of muscles worked that day.
If you’ve recently started foam rolling and are having difficulty mastering the technique, a consult at Blue Hills Sports & Spine Rehabilitation with one of the physical therapists in Boston is advised. We also offer other convenient physical therapy locations in Massachusetts, such as Braintree, Weymouth, and Plymouth. We can assess your technique and make any corrections necessary to your running form, helping to improve your treatment outcomes and prevent running injuries.