Thursday, October 2, 2008

Trigger points and Foam Rollers

Let me introduce you to one of my best training partners:
The Foam Roller

Have you seen that long roller made of foam hanging out in the fitness center? Have you seen someone rolling their back or legs onto it and grimacing? Yes, this is our very own foam roller.

What is it?
- The foam roller is used as a form of myofascial release (like massage)
Why use it?
- To help relieve trigger points.

A trigger point is a small area or section of muscle that acts differently than the rest of the muscle. It is what most people term “knots”.
• What these trigger points or knots do is they provide increased tension within that particular muscle.
• They are found in muscles that are very tight, very weak, or overworked.
• Trigger points are an indicator of previous injury, inappropriate use of the muscle, constant irritation, too much activity, or not enough activity

You might think, “Wouldn’t stretching & strengthening work? Why should I use the foam roller?” Think of it this way, the foam roller is like having a portable massage therapist on call for you. It can work out those knots in your muscles and allows you to get more gains from your stretching and strengthening exercises. If you basically just stretch
(and lets face it people, we don’t stretch nearly enough) you are going to
lose that flexibility if that knot has not been taken care of first. Think of it like
this, if you have a knot in your shoe string, would you pull it tighter to get rid of the knot? No, that would make the knot tighter and not help you out at all. That is the same with trigger points; you need to work out the knot in your muscles for you to efficiently get gains in flexibility and strength in those muscles that contain trigger points.

So think of it like this: Trigger point work 1st, then flexibility 2nd, then 3rd strengthen all those new ranges of motions you just achieved for you to gain the most from your exercise program.

Foam Roller Guidelines
• Roll an area of muscle with the foam roller, feel for tender spots and keep the roller on this spot and try to breathe and relax. Wait for the discomfort to diminish by 50-75%.
• When this area is no longer sensitive then begin to roll to see if there are any other sensitive areas
• Over time when you foam roll the areas may no longer be sensitive CONGRATULATIONS! But this does not mean you stop, keep foam rolling to help maintain that tissue quality
• You can use the foam roller as a warm up before stretching and activity or as a cool down (I suggest both if possible)
• Feel free to experiment with the foam roller on what works best and gets those trigger points. Some sample exercises are provided on the backside of this handout
• Remember you need to be able to relax, if the trigger points are too sensitive and make you tense up, then you will not get rid of the trigger point. Modify your technique or try the massage stick instead!

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