Foam rollers are a great tool. As a structurally focused chiropractor, I am very focused on the orientation of my patient’s spine and how that affects the rest of the patient. As a result, I have written numerous other blogs about chiropractic and how it affects the muscles. It’s easy to understand this relationship when you consider the structure of the spine is directly related to the health and wellbeing of the muscles attached to the spine.
Any time the position of your spine is fixated in an abnormal position it can create stress, myofascial restrictions, muscle imbalances, over recruitment, and/or inflammation. In most cases, the spine is the primary conditions that create these muscular problems. However, there are often situations, particularly in athletes, where myofascial imbalances are such strong sequelae that they need to be treated in concurrently with the spinal abnormalities and in rare cases before anything else.
I have treated several patients where their secondary conditions (symptoms) could not effectively be treated using structurally focused chiropractic, spinal remodeling traction, and isometric stabilization therapies (posture exercises) until the severe myofascial restrictions were addressed using trigger point therapy. Foam rollers essentially help you address these myofascial abnormalities. The best way to use them is before it’s “too late”. At some point, the pain and symptoms from significant myofascial restrictions and trigger points can be so bad that it may not be practical to use a foam roller on yourself.
Trigger points are basically small bundles of muscle that fail to relax. They can cause severe pain and often referral pain that can be easily overlooked or misdiagnosed as many doctors and even chiropractors are not experienced with or looking for abnormal muscle or myofascial problems. All the more reason using a foam roller on a regular basis can be helpful for you. Prevent a simple problem from becoming a relatively difficult and complex one. The sooner you start the better.
Using a foam roller is easy but not really because it can be rather unpleasant. Treating trigger points with a foam roller can be rather effective but for a beginner, it can be difficult to control the intensity of the massage. I would recommend having at least 2-4 different types of foam rollers of varying firmness and/or designs. This will help allow you to avoid causing a lot of pain. A general rule is that this is not a “no pain, no gain,” type of process. Working through the discomfort is necessary to a certain degree. Really being aggressive thinking that the more you can deal with the pain the better it will be is not going to benefit you. It’s possible you may hurt yourself and make it work but more to the point you’re enduring more pain for no reason.
Aside from the pain factor, which improves with use and often has a “hurts so good” effect, foam rollers are often a great tool that I use with patients to improve the benefits of their structurally focused chiropractic care. Simplified its effects are similar to stretching. Foam rolling does seem to go above and beyond just improved range of motion without causing the subsequent decrease in muscle activation or force often seen in static stretching. However, foam rolling and static stretching have shown to have an added benefit when performed together. While stretching will gain more range of motion by itself, to perform them both may give you the best of both worlds while limited the reduction in strength seen from stretching alone. In the end foam rollers, are a get tool to be used in conjunction with any exercise program and/or chiropractic care.
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