When working on a stiff and sore body I definitely find value in manual therapies to increase the staying power of new movement habits. I'm frequently asked what I think about foam rolling. I hate doing it, mostly because it is super-effective and therefore creates lots of sensation. Although the more consistent I am, the less tension I have and the better it feels. Which means I love it, of course.
Massage, technically, is the passive* application of pressure. Whether a therapist is applying pressure (think pushing down onto your body) or creating a shearing motion (not pushing as deeply, but just enough to create traction followed by a "sliding" action) the result is a tensile load to the tissues below the skin. The difference in techniques alters the primary tissue loaded, but I think an argument could be made that every technique offers some sort of benefit.
Rolling on a foam roller (or on any apparatus) is also a passive treatment, and creates a similar cellular effect as massage or stretching. Although the magnitude of tensile load can differ between the method used, the load-type (tensile) is the same. Below I've attempted a video demonstrating six different "moves" to do with the roller. You can also search Youtube.com for other ideas.
Massage is my most favorite passive therapy because I can blend a meditative relaxation with the skills of the therapist. But body work is often limited due to money and time constraints, which means learning to do it yourself is helpful.
Here's a video, shot my typical "whatever the opposite of professional is" fashion. I'm not exactly sure why my hair is channeling "rooster" but I can assure you that I only care a little bit.
1. You can find a foam roller here (or, a hundred other places): www.foamerica.com. That's right. Not FoamAmerica, but Foamerica. Clever. I like both the 6" x 36" and 4" x 36" full (not half) roller. They are totally worth the minimal expense. If you're going to practice log-rolling, the 4" is easier.
2. To recap my noisy video, I demonstrated:
- Lateral thigh (rolling the outside of the thigh)
- Quad and inner thigh (rolling the front of the thigh with the feet and thighs turned way out like a ballerina)
- Back of the thigh
- Front of the shin
- Lower rib cage, near the upper psoas attachment
- Mid-back and shoulder blades (lots of bra-strap area if you're nursing and baby-carrying!)
- Side of the rib cage (Careful, this can be a tender spot!)
3. You can make up any motions on the roller and if you take the ones I've give you and position your body at slightly different angles, you'll effectively be reaching new areas. Each position varying by a couple degrees is entirely unique -- even if it looks quite similar.
4. I would like to note here that I am officially trademarking the term "Watch Me!" Please send $0.05 every time your child uses it. Thank you.
5. Don't like rollers? Fascia-release balls (softer than every-day tennis balls) can create loads no roller can touch. Check out my friend and soul sister Jill Miller's therapy ball program here (click). You can also check out Jill's friend, Sue Hitzmann's MELT method. Sue, why aren't we friends yet? Call me. xxoo
Invest in yourself!
*"Passive" means that the muscle receiving pressure is not actively contracting. Only, truly, we typically tense at the application of pressure. An often-missed benefit to body work is learning how to soften your body at will. The way massage or foam rolling feels is a result of not only what the therapist (or roller) is doing to you, but how you signal your brain to interface with the pressure. For mind-blowing results during body work, practice relaxing your body when a pressure feels like it's too much. The amount of sensation you feel when people (or a roller) pushes on you is a result of both how are you are being pushed on and how much you are resisting with your body. Resistance is futile. Or something like that.