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Introducing your new best friend: The Foam Roller

If you're in the know, you may already have a close relationship with Foam Roller.
Some of you though may have had a close relationship with Foam Roller but maybe you have drifted apart lately, perhaps he is sitting listlessly beside the couch. Heaven forbid he has been shoved into the back of the cupboard!!
Well I'm here to reignite your friendship and for those of you not yet in the know...let me introduce you to your new best friend in-between massages!

For those runners gearing up to the Auckland marathon or half marathon, or those cyclists training hard for the Round Taupo race, one of your best maintenance tools (friend) apart from your massage therapist should be the Foam Roller. And for all you Other People who think just because I'm not training for something means this doesn't apply to me....think again!

The Foam Roller can be used in so many ways....

The main advantage of our friend the Foam Roller is that it can "massage" away minor adhesions in the muscle tissue or "knots", and it is especially good at relieving those adhesions between muscles and tendons...the most famous being the Illio-Tibial Band or ITB.
The ITB is a long flat tendon that runs down the lateral (or outside) part of your thigh. It attaches to your Tensor Fasciae Latae (TFL) hip flexor muscle and the Gluteus Maximus at one end and inserts past the knee at the Fibula head on the lateral side. The tendon itself actually dives down into the muscle tissue and therefore creates tension on the outside of the thigh which helps to hold this whole structure together. But too much tension is not a good thing and it can end up pulling around your knee, often called ITB Friction Syndrome...even to the point where it can pull your Patella out of alignment.

So enter your new best "friend" Foam Roller!!
Working the Foam Roller from the top of the ITB along the muscles of the TFL and Gluteus Maximus, pause and sink into those tender spots to help release the tension. Be careful to stay away from the boney attachments so as not to irritate the underlying joint structures such as bursas.
Then slowly moving down the ITB; roll back and forth to work the adhesions that form between the muscles and the fascia. This is where you may want to curse your new best friend because of the "discomfort" it's causing...but curse away because it's only a piece of foam and won't get offended!
foam roller itb

Foam Rolling the ITB

Regular Foam Rolling can really maintain the muscle health when you're training hard but also if you are in a desk job. Seated at a desk all day shortens the TFL over time, so this is a great way to warm up the muscle before you do you regular hip flexor stretches...you know the ones you always do at the end of your work day!

Another great way to take advantage of your new found friend, (which is far less painful) is the Thoracic Rotation Stretch:
1. In 4 point kneeling, with the Foam Roller to your side, gently arch your lower back (into extension)
2. Place your opposite hand on the Foam Roller (if roller is on your right, put your left hand on roller), palm facing up.
3. Slowly roll the Foam Roller away from you, breathing out and pulling your belly button into your spine...hold the stretch at end range for a breath in, then slowly roll back to starting position.
4. Repeat 3 times, then move to the other side.

foam roller th rotation

Foam Roller Thoracic Rotation Stretch

This is an excellent rotational stretch for the Thoracic (upper back) which we all need, as alot of our day is spent in the forward position. (again; great for desk workers!!)
There are so many more exercises and stretches you can do with your Foam Roller, don't be afraid to experiment too.

So I hope this gets you reacquainted with your friend and for those of you that would like to have a new best friend....they can be purchased from the Balance Massage clinic for a mere $41 for the short foam roller (30cm x 15cm) or $76 for the long foam roller (1metre x 15cm).

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