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How to Get the Best Benefits from Myofascial Release Tools

 

Safety Warning

Please consult your Doctor before beginning any exercise programme. If you experience any pain, dizziness or shortness of breath when performing any of the described movements, stop all activity immediately and consult your Doctor. If you are taking any medication, you should consult your Doctor before beginning any exercise programme. Do not perform self-myofascial release if your Doctor has advised you not to do so. Do not take any risks beyond your level of experience and fitness. The exercise described in this programme are to be used as guidelines only and are not to be treated as a substitute for any exercise routine or treatment regimen that may have been prescribed to you by your Doctor. Do not use a foam roller if you have a circulatory problem and/or chronic pain disease. The recommendations described here are for educational purposes only and are not medical guidelines.

Introduction

Myofascial release is an alternative therapy technique that helps to address muscle pain and immobility by causing relaxation to occur in muscles that are contracted, whilst improving the flow of blood to the tissues. Fascia can be described as a thin sheath of fibrous tissue that encloses a muscle or organ, and the term myofascial implies tissue that is enclosing the muscle. When this tissue becomes very tight and tense, pain and inflexibility may occur. By releasing the tissue, relief can be experienced.

Foam Roller

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So what exactly does a foam roller do? Foam rollers are designed to help mimic the benefits that you’d get from going for a professional deep tissue massage. The rollers move along the muscle fiber, applying pressure, especially in areas where the muscle fibers are all knotted up and tense. This pressure allows for the release of the tension, which then breaks up the knot and helps even out the fibers so they are moving along in the proper direction again. This is what then leads to faster recovery and reduced pain. In addition to that, if you have any scar tissue present, proper foam rolling can help you better manage it. When scar tissue is leſt as-is, it does not function as well as regular healthy healed tissue would as it’s less elastic, doesn’t allow for the same amount of oxygenation, and tends to have nerves that conduct pain far more effectively than regular healed tissue would. What this all means to you is that you want to prevent the build-up of scar tissue whenever possible and this can be done by massaging the area, breaking it up to encourage the healing of proper tissue in its place. Now, when you first start foam rolling, especially if you’re really quite tense and tight, it can be a pretty painful experience. Many don’t find it especially comfortable and as such, oſten shy away from it entirely. Don’t let this happen to you. With a few smart tips and tricks on how to make foam rolling as comfortable as possible, you can ensure that it’s not going to leave a bad impression in your mind. Also always remember, a deep tissue massage is not particularly comfortable either and you are basically mimicking that same experience here. Let’s go over how to foam roll and then give you some do’s and don’ts.

How To Foam Roll

To foam roll successfully, you’ll want to first figure out the tender or sore area where you will be foam rolling. Note, there is nothing wrong with foam rolling for general purposes. If you’ve had a particularly intense workout, you might foam roll your entire body to help decrease the tension in the muscles and avoid the post workout soreness that will normally come along. This is perfectly fine too, so in that case, it wouldn’t be one particular area you are focusing on. Once you’ve pinpointed where you are going to foam roll, you want to place that part of the body over the top of the foam roller. Note that the more of your body weight you are able to place on that surface area (the less support you are using from the ground), the more total tension you’ll be placing on the muscle tissues. So for example, if you are foam rolling your hamstrings, foam rolling both the hamstrings at once by placing the foam roller beneath the two hamstrings will be less intense than foam rolling just one hamstring at a time (with the other leg crossed over the other to add additional weight to that area). This is because your body weight is supported by a smaller surface area and there is more total weight bearing down. Keep this in mind as you decide how to foam roll. Adjust the tension accordingly to a place where it’s still comfortable but you are really feeling the effects. Once you’ve found your position, you’ll slowly want to roll back and forth over the area, making sure to not just roll where it hurts, but in all the surrounding areas too. Keep in mind that sometimes you can have referred pain, meaning even though you may feel pain in one spot, the pain could be radiating from tightness or scar tissue built up in a nearby area. By foam rolling the regions all around that area, you help ensure that you address all possible tight muscle fibers. Roll back and forth a few times until you begin to feel the muscle fibers loosening up underneath the foam roller. Aſter this is done, you can then proceed to the next area.

Let’s talk some do’s and don’ts.

1. Do focus on taking deep breaths while you foam roll. Too many people hold their breath, which just tenses up the muscle fibers and causes extra tightness. It is your natural reaction when in pain, but it will only make things worse. Really do your best to take deep breaths in and out.

2. Don’t rush. Rushing is another big mistake many people make because it is very painful doing the rolling. Avoid this. Slow and steady is what you want. It’s the best way to loosen up the tissue.

3. Do foam roll regularly. Even if you aren’t feeling all that’s sore, you may still be quite tense. The more oſten you foam roll, the less pain you’ll have to deal with when doing so. Make it a regular part of your recovery routine.

4. Don’t sit in one spot too long. While if you feel extra sore in one area, you can pause briefly to exert more pressure on that area, don’t let yourself sit there for an extended period of time. This could create additional tissue damage.

If you keep these points in mind, you should have no problem rolling regularly without experiencing too much discomfort.

Now let’s talk about some of the main foam rolling exercises you can perform.

Adductors

Place the foam roller on the floor
and then position yourself so you are
stomach down with one leg on the floor
and one leg raised on top of the foam
roller. The inner thigh should be
resting across the roller.

2. Applying as much pressure as you
can tolerate, roll the hips back and
forth so the inner thigh moves
along the roller.

3. Switch legs and repeat.

 Biceps/Outer Arm

1. Lay side down with your arms tucked into the side of the body, elbows slightly bent with the foam roller lying perpendicular to the middle of the outside of the bicep.

2. Position the feet on the floor, legs stretched beneath you and balance your body weight on your feet and arm touching the roller.

3. Roll up and down, feeling the roller moving across the arm.

4. Switch sides and repeat.

Calves

1. Position the roller on the ground and then place the calves over the roller, balancing the rest of the body on the hands with the back upright.

2. Liſt the hips up off the ground and then roll the body back and forth over the roller to release the tension in the calves.

3. To make this exercise more challenging, cross one leg over the other and roll out one calf at a time.

Hamstrings

1. Sit in an upright position on the floor, arms behind you. The roller should be placed under the hamstring muscles.

2. Roll back and forth over the roller, across both hamstrings.

3. If you want to make this more intense, liſt one leg up and cross it over the other, balancing the body on just one hamstring at a time.

*Note, you can also roll out your groin to some degree by simply shiſting the roller right under the pelvis and rolling there as well.

 

IT Band

1. Get onto your side, body extended, balancing on the lower legs/ankles and the hands.

2. Position the roller underneath the outer thigh region and then roll back and forth along your IT band.

3. Once finished, switch sides and repeat. 

Lats

1. Lay back down on the ground and position the foam roller just under the hips.

2. Tilt slightly to the side and cross the arms over the chest.

3. With the body on a slight angle, roll up and down along the lat muscle. Be sure to keep the weight on your side and avoid the spine.

4. Once one side is completed, perform on the other side. 

Rhomboids

1. Get down on the ground, knees bent and feet on the floor.

2. Place the roller under the upper back.

3. Liſt up so your weight is on the roller and then shiſt slightly to one side.

4. Roll back and forth on that side.

5. Repeat to the other side. 

Glutes

1. Sit in an upright position and then place the foam roller directly under the glute muscles.

2. Cross one knee over the other leg and focusing on putting your bodyweight on the crossed leg’s glute muscle, roll back and forth.

3. Switch sides and repeat. 

Quads

1. Get stomach down on the ground, placing the foam roller just under the hips.

2. Balancing on the hands, roll up and down along the quads.

3. Note: to make this exercise more intense, liſt one leg up and cross it over the other so you’re just balancing on one leg only. 

Massage Stick

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The massage stick (or muscle roller stick as it's also called) works in a similar manner to a foam roller, except now rather than placing your entire body weight over the roller, you will simply roll the stick over the muscles, applying pressure with your arms (or you can have someone else do it for you). This is a great option for those who may find using a foam roller to be a bit awkward, or if you find that you are trying to roll an area that the foam roller cannot easily get to, such as the inner groin for instance.

Additionally, foam rollers can be big and bulky, so are not always ideal to carry with you to the gym or other locations, while the massage stick is much smaller so can easily be added to your gym bag or stashed in your shoulder bag. You may also find that the massage stick is a bit more comfortable to use when just starting your myofascial release therapy as you directly control the amount of pressure that you are using.

Unlike the foam roller where it is harder as your bodyweight is what’s creating the pressure, with a massage stick, it’s all a matter of how hard you press. That said, you do need to make sure that you are still pressing hard enough to experience the benefits. The massage stick is going to likewise help to breakup any scar tissue, myofascial tension, or knotting taking place in the muscle cells, increasing blood flow to the tissues to promote faster recovery while also increasing flexibility. Doing this on a maintenance basis is a great way to help prevent injuries down the road as the more flexible your muscles are, the less likely they will be to tear or become strained.

How To Use A Massage Stick

To use a massage stick, you’ll get into a sitting position on the floor where you are comfortable and expose whatever area it is that you want to use the stick on. The more pressure you apply with your hands, the more intense the therapy is going to become. Let’s look at a few of the different exercises and techniques you can perform using a massage stick. 

 Quads

1. Get into a half kneeling position, with the working leg placed in front of you at a right angle.

2. Place the massage stick over the quad of your front leg and roll from top to bottom along the muscle.

3. Once one leg has been completed, switch legs and repeat. 

IT Band

1. Sit flat on the ground with the body upright.

2. Now shiſt the legs so they are bent slightly and to one side. You want to expose your IT band for easy access.

3. Place the massage stick over the IT Band and roll it up and down the length of this muscle.

4. Once one side is completed, switch sides and repeat. 

Hamstrings

1. Sit in an upright position with the knees bent and feet placed firmly on the floor.

2. Position the massage stick directly underneath the hamstring on the backside of your leg (under your knee).

3. Roll the massage stick back and forth up and down the length of your knee.

4. Once one side is completed, switch sides and repeat. 

Neck

1. Sitting in an upright position, bring the massage stick just behind your neck, holding it with both hands.

2. Place it on the neck and gentle roll up and down one side.

3. Once one side is finished, switch sides and repeat. 

 

Back

1. Lay flat down on the ground, legs stretched out behind you with the arms by your sides.

2. Have a partner take the massage stick and roll up an down the back where you are feeling discomfort.

Calves

1. Sit in an upright position with the knees bent and feet placed on the floor.

2. Place the massage stick behind the knee at the top of the calf muscle.

3. Roll the massage stick down the calf until it’s reached the bottom of your foot.

4. Roll back up.

5. Switch sides and repeat. 

Shins

1. Sit in an upright position with the knees bent and feet placed on the floor.

2. Place the massage stick in front of the knee at the top of the shin bone.

3. Roll the massage stick down the calf until it’s reached the bottom of your foot.

4. Roll back up.

5. Switch sides and repeat.

6. Note you may perform this one also slightly off center to hit the fleshier part of the muscle.

Massage Balls

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Massage balls are another great tool to have to use in conjunction with your foam roller or stick. The benefit of the massage ball is that it can oſten help you to isolate especially problematic areas better than a massage stick or foam roller would be able to. You’ll primarily be working on your ‘trigger points’ applying pressure and then causing the release. In addition to this, active release therapy can also be performed, which is another form of myofascial release that adds movement into the mix. More on that in a second. A massage ball will be more akin to having a massage therapist use their elbow on you, really trying to release tension that is building in one particular area. You can also perform trigger point therapy using massage balls, which is another way to break up scar tissue and promote optimal healing and recovery.

How To Use Massage Balls

You’ll use the massage ball in much the same way you’d use a foam roller, only the fact that it is much smaller makes it slightly easier to maneuver with various muscle groups. Oſten you can use walls or table tops, not just the floor to position the ball between the object and the affected muscle group and begin applying pressure as you roll around in small circles to release the tension and improve flexibility in the area. Likewise, you can simply press the massage ball into the area where you are sore, much like you would a massage stick, only this time, you are using the ball rather than the stick.

If you are doing active release therapy with massage balls, you’ll want to position the ball directly on the area where you are feeling pain and tension and then once you feel that, you’ll then want to move the limb or surrounding area in small circles or back and forth as you feel the muscles releasing their tension as the contraction takes place. This is one level higher in terms of the level of release you’ll get, so do expect it to be slightly to moderately painful when performing it. When done properly however, it can increase the range of motion in an affected area and help restore movement that has been restricted.

Let’s look at a few exercises that can be performed.

Back

1. Stand with your back against a wall and position the massage ball between your body and the wall.

2. Roll up and down or side to side to get the massage ball to hit whichever area is tight and tense.

 

Forearm

1. Place the massage ball on a tabletop and then place your forearm over the massage ball where it is tight.

2. Roll the ball forward and backward or side to side to work out those tense muscles.

3. Perform on the other side as well.

Foot

1. Stand and place the massage ball on the floor in front of you.

2. Place the foot over the massage ball and roll back and forth.

3. Once one foot is completed, switch sides and repeat.

Hamstring

1. Get into an upright position sitting with the legs stretched out in front of you.

2. Position the massage ball directly under the hamstring where it’s sore.

3. Roll back and forth over the ball until you feel the tension in the muscle loosening up.

4. Switch sides and repeat.

Conclusion

So there you have a closer look at the three types of myofascial release tools you should have in your arsenal. Remember that these are not substitutes for each other. Ideally you’ll want to use all three in your recovery treatment program. This is what will help ensure that you get the best possible results overall and can help you to stay pain free in the future.

Myofascial release should be a regular part of any fitness and wellness programme not only to help prevent soreness and manage injuries, but to prevent injuries in the future. When used properly, they can effectively replace deep tissue massage and save you a great deal of money down the road. Thank you for taking the time to read this guide. We hope you find it useful.

If you are interested in buying any of our myofascial release tools, see below for our full range.

Foam Rollers click Here

Massage Sticks click Here

Massage Balls click Here

or view the complete set Here