I began having tightness in my IT band. That’s illiotibial band and it runs from your hip down to your knee. If you’ve never heard of it, then I’d consider that a good thing for you. Anyway, I knew it was getting tight so I began stretching it and foam rolling it. I thought I could work on it a little bit and it would just disappear. Well, that might have actually happened if is was, say, thirteen or even twenty-three years old! And, I’ll be honest here. I said I was foam rolling it. That’s true if you consider having a foam roller in your bedroom and living room just so I COULD foam roll daily. There is no foam rolling benefit from this osmosis type thinking. Once a week just wasn’t doing the trick. The IT band continued to get tighter and tighter. I had it worked on and stretched a few times by someone in the “know”, but I continued to get worse. It was at the point where I could barely sit cross-legged and the number four stretch was a killer. Then, to top it off, one day as I was getting out of the car I had this piercing sharp pain in that knee. That just began the down hill slide. The knee began to have those sharp pains until I was convinced I had done something nasty to my knee.
Long story short, it all went back to that dang IT band and resulting patellofemoral pain. That’s actually a good thing. It’s completely fixable. Some work actually consistently foam rolling, working on strengthening the inside of the quad muscle to compensate for the over strength in the outer quad muscle and hopefully the IT band will relax and soon let go of the vice grip it has on my knee. I’m in for some patience and consistent work with the lovely foam roller.
I’ve been to PT all of three times and have been religious about foam rolling after my workouts. That means daily work and not just looking at it sitting in my bedroom and living room. Now I’m fending off my puppy for play time with it! The tightness is definitely improving. I am sitting cross-legged as I type! So, this is why we foam roll.
Don’t just take my word for it either. It’s actually a key component in athlete’s performance and recovery. It helps improve circulation, increase blood flow, release muscle tightness, breaks down knots in the muscles and reduces pain. It’s like giving yourself a massage – only it’s free and in the privacy of your own home. As you roll, the fibrous tissue is broken down and circulation is boosted to relieve the tension and pain. Don’t be fooled, though. The actual rolling is often painful in itself, especially if the muscles is really tight or has knots. While rolling over the muscles, if you hit a particularly tight spot, you are to roll back and forth to help work out that tight spot. This is quite painful! I would suggest rolling every day to prevent those spots from occurring. Learn from me here!
There are some things to remember when foam rolling. You want to be hydrated as that keeps the muscles more pliable. Avoid rolling over the muscles in a hurry. The rolling should be slow and controlled. You will want to go up and down and side to side over the muscles. Be consistent. Avoid rolling the hip or a joint. Some folks also say avoid rolling the lower back.
Here are some moves to try:
“Position yourself on your right side with your right leg flat, knee bent 90 degrees, your left foot flat on the floor. Place the center of a foam roller beneath your right arm pit, perpendicular to your body, and extend your right arm straight, resting your left hand on the foam roller. (Reach that right arm as far as possible to create more of a stretch.)
From this position, roll from your armpit about four inches down towards your waist, and back again, for 30 seconds to a minute. Switch sides; repeat.”
2. Shoulders and Pecs
“Lie face down, resting your left forearm on the floor, legs slightly wider than shoulder width. Place one end of a foam roller under your right shoulder, extending arm straight out at shoulder height, forming a T with the roller. (Again, reach that straight arm as far as possible to create more tension.) In short movements, roll from your shoulder to right pec and back again, for 30 seconds to a minute. Switch sides and repeat.”
3. Thoracic Spine
“Lie face up with feet shoulder-width apart and flat on the floor. Center a foam roller beneath your mid-back or shoulder blades so that it is perpendicular to your body. (Note: You can move the foam roller up and down to target different areas of the thoracic spine while still doing the extension motion.)
Extend arms out from shoulders at a 45-degree angle. Reach arms back behind you towards floor and back again for 30 seconds to a minute. Make sure that the lower back doesn’t extend—think about pushing the lumbar spine into the ground as you are reaching back.”
“Sit with legs extended in front of you, and rest your lower right calf on the center of a foam roller that’s perpendicular to your body. With hands on the floor, press your triceps to lift your butt off the floor, and then place your left foot on top of your right calf. Roll up from your lower right calf to the meat of your calf and back for 30 seconds to a minute. Switch legs; repeat. (Note: Also target the inside and the outside of the calf simply by turning the foot in or turning the foot out.)”
5. Glutes and Piriformis
“With your feet flat on the floor, slightly wider than shoulder-width, center a foam roller beneath your glutes. Lift your right leg and rest your right ankle on your left knee. Roll back and forth from the center of your right glute to the bottom of your spine for 30 seconds to a minute; switch legs and repeat.”
You may wonder if you actually need to add this to your daily routine. You may wonder if you even have tight spots or trigger points that need work. Sometimes these tight spots cause pain elsewhere in your body. Personally, if I am foam rolling my IT band it may cause pain to go up to the hip and all the way down to my ankle or in the back of my knee. Yes, it’s uncomfortable, but afterwards it does feel better.
The goal in working out the tight spots or trigger points is to get the muscles moving back in their proper patterns with pain free movement. No matter what you do for a living, as a hobby and for fun, we do terrible things to our bodies. How we sit, our stance, posture, how we walk, run, drive, our hydration, nutrition, rest and stress all add to our lifestyle and our bodies begin to compensate for what we make it do. At some point our body says, “Whoa”! It needs some help to recover and getting balanced.
A couple of weeks ago while I was at a cycling certification I noticed a couple of the participants would whip out a foam roller from their bags during breaks and start rolling away. I admit I wished I had thought of that! All I could do was try to stretch out my sore IT band and legs. Believe me, it just wasn’t the same. I have really re-committed to the foam roller. I am using it after every workout and even though it’s only been a couple of weeks I can already tell the difference. In the beginning of the summer I met a friend at Hot Yoga. I thought it would really help my tight IT band. However, I was miserable – and this means even more miserable than I normally am in a Hot Yoga class. I mean, Hot Yoga in itself is just kinda miserable! I finally went back today and it was like a new experience! I have seen a huge difference in actually using the foam roller as it was meant to be used and not just letting it sit there and rolling randomly. If you have some aches and pains from whatever you do I would definitely say it’s worth a try.
If you want to see an example of how to use the roller check out one of my previous posts here.
You can find these just about anywhere these days. Amazon, Target, or any sports store will carry them.
(You all know I am not a medical professional so please talk to your physician if you have any questions on this! My post is based solely on my own experiences)
Which muscles give you a fit? Do you foam roll? Or do you just look at it in the gym?
Have a great day out there!