Foam Rolling

- or - How Spending £10 Could Save You a Small Fortune

  1. Save time
  2. Save money
  3. Get to know your body
  4. Injury prevention

A massage a day can keep injuries at bay

A client and I were joking recently that if money was no object we would both have a massage every day! What a lovely idea, but this got me thinking ... During my massage training, one weekend a month I would typically receive between 3 and 6 massages. By the Sunday evening, my brain was frazzled but my body was in great shape and ready to take on the world. Recently I broke my cardinal rule and got out of sync with my own massage appointments - yes, us professionals get it wrong too, but that’s because we are human! Within days I felt 10 years older, and I put in a desperate plea!

As a massage therapist and personal trainer, I understand the benefits of having regular massage, and as a recipient I know how awesome it helps my body feel. But there is something we can all do to help ourselves in between massages.

Let me introduce you …

… to foam rolling, or self myofascial release (SMR). Fascia is a connective tissue running throughout our bodies, quite literally connecting our head to our feet – you’ll have seen it as that peel-able translucent skin on raw chicken that melts away with cooking.

Myofascial release is a bodywork technique that involves slow, gentle and sustained pressure on soft tissues while applying traction to the fascia that causes it to soften and lengthen, which further helps to break down scar tissue or adhesions between the skin, muscles and bones. The genius of foam rollers is that they are inexpensive and with a bit of experimentation you can target just about any muscle group, and benefit from myofascial release at home, or in the gym, or anywhere you like … all from just £10 (ish).

Being able to do something to help yourself feel better can help you take control of your potential injury and recovery. Not only that, investing at the outset can help you save yourself a small fortune in the long run.

Limited time?

You don’t need to book an hour out of your time for foam rolling, just set aside 10 minutes (or more) every other day? Does that sound manageable? That’s still an hour a fortnight, but broken down into more manageable chunks!

Finite finances?

You don’t need to pay a sports massage therapist or be a member of a gym to foam roll, just an initial outlay for the roller itself. You don’t need to spend money on top of the range, brand name-tastic rollers, but if you are new to the game I’d suggest starting softer and perhaps even wrapping a hand towel around it to provide that bit more cushioning!! If spending a few pounds on a foam roller can really help speed up your recovery or prevent the initial injury, the investment has got to be worth it!

How DO your muscles feel?

It is often said that you don’t know how much you need a massage until you have one, and clients often comment that they weren’t aware how tight or sore somewhere was until I was working to resolve it. Knowing how your body feels - tired, stiff, wound tightly - will help you understand where other aches and pains might be coming from. If you are struggling with your low back, are your hamstrings or hip flexors tight? Perhaps your upper back aches because you have been hunching over that laptop or steering wheel for hours?!

If you know what has been feeling very tight or in need of work, what has responded well to your self-massage or foam rolling, and what just isn’t budging and needs a good going over, your therapist can help you target these areas.  Again, this will help maximize your appointment and therefore your money more efficiently, so that you get the most out of your session.

Injury Prevention

We all know the frustration that an injury can provide to daily life. A niggle or tweak might not seem much, it just doesn’t feel quite right. Ignoring it could result in an escalation to a full blown injury which may require time consuming rehabilitation, a course of appointments in quick succession and perhaps even time off work.

Being able to do something yourself to help in the early stages can make the world of difference to how you see and react to that little niggle. So don’t be an ostrich, get on your roller and use massage for injury prevention. Slowly and gently work that grumpy area until it is slightly less unhappy, and keep regularly working at it either until you have resolved the issue or your next massage appointment.

If your next appointment is a while away, or you don’t have an appointment in the diary (that’s a whole different article - how often to get a massage?!) then make a note to mention it when you next see your therapist – it might be nothing, but they might remember if this has happened before if you don’t … things rarely recur for no reason!

Massage vs Foam Roller

All I will say on this is hands work better than foam. They are connected directly to a conscious brain which will feel, sense and respond accordingly whilst foam is just foam, albeit inexpensive and readily accessible. So whilst foam rolling is a type of massage, the massage benefits you receive are very much limited to the physical, rather than providing the space for psychological or emotional!

Without doing myself out of a job, might I suggest you give foam rolling a try and see if you feel better in your body as a result? If this helps treat and repair those niggles aches and pains, your massage therapist can still help your body and mind relax!

What are you waiting for?

If you aren’t sure what you are doing there are many guides available on the internet. Personally I'm a huge fan of the Massage Sloth (@MassageSloth) who has recently released a fantastic video:

"Foam Rolling: Self-care for massage therapists and clients."

Alternatively, check out Custom Strength's comprehensive two page guide on how to roll various muscle groups, or for an overview, and ‘honest’ video about what foam rolling is like, have a look at StrengthCamp’s “The correct way to foam roll” (please excuse the single expletive at the start! Courtesy of one of my clients!).

So go on, give yourself a mini-massage a day and keep those injuries at bay!