Author: Hugh Simon/Physiotherapist and Owner/One Wellness
In this article we will review foam roller exercises and ball exercises that can be used for pain relief of the gluts, hips, and legs. Foam rolling is a popular term for self-myofascial release (SMR), a self massage technique that targets tight muscles. This technique can be carried out with a foam roller, a softball and even with two tennis balls together in a sock. The great thing about foam rolling is that once you have the tool, you can easily work on releasing tension of several muscle groups, anytime and anywhere. Self-myofascial release is similar to myofascial release, a deep – tissue technique I use myself lot’s in client treatments. Physiotherapists and massage therapists use their hands to press directly on a tight muscle until it releases its tension. When foam rolling, the pressure created by your own body weight helps to release muscle knots. By applying pressure in precise sore locations you are able to aid in the recovery of muscles and assist in returning these muscles to normal function; less tight and ready to get engaged and perform in daily life activities and sports.
How to chose a Foam Roller?
Foam rollers differ in size, shape, foam type, and cost. By determining your specific uses for the foam roller, you can buy one that fits you best.
- Choose your firmness based on your experience level with foam rolling. Foam rollers are colour coded according to firmness; white/light blue (softest), dark blue /green (medium) and black (firmest). The blue roller is most common used. The darker the colour, the firmer, the more pressure it produces and the more painful it can be.
- Decide on how often you will use the foam roller. The white and blue rollers are less durable than the black or EVA foam roller.
- Choose your foam roller size. If you plan to use the roller on your back, chose a relatively large roller. If you plan to take it along when traveling, consider buying the shorter travel version.
How to use Foam Roller?
Place the roller between the sore muscles or muscle groups and the floor and apply moderate pressure using your body weight. Roll slowly, not more than one inch per second. In an area that is painful, pause for several seconds and relax as much as possible. You should start to feel the muscle releasing, and after 5 to 30 seconds the discomfort or pain should lessen. Discomfort or pain can be in a slightly different area other than the area worked on, this is called referral pain that comes with putting pressure on a trigger point, specific knots that form in muscles. It should be uncomfortable but not unbearable.
When you are finished it should feel better. The target area may feel sore after you finish rolling and may be sore for the following twenty-four hours. In an area that is too painful to apply direct pressure, start rolling on the surrounding area and gradually move towards the target area. Avoid rolling directly over a joint or a bone and we recommend avoiding rolling your lower back.
Foam Rolling versus Traditional Stretching
Stretching alone is not always enough to release muscle tightness. Imagine stretching a cord with a knot tied into it; this creates tension, traditional stretching releases the unknotted part of the muscle while the knot stays in place. With foam rolling or using a firm ball, deep compression helps to release the muscle knot itself and the adhesions formed between muscle layers and their surroundings. It helps to bring back normal blood circulation and function.
Foam Rolling and Ball Exercises to Improve Lower Body Mobility:
- Piriformis and Medial Glute Stretch
Sitting with your hands behind you place a ball (base ball or pitching soft ball) close to your tail bone. Roll the ball up and down the side of your tail bone. Avoid rolling the centre part of you butt as this is where your sciatic nerve is and putting pressure on it will refer pain down the back of your leg. Following rolling out the deep glut muscle (piriformis) you can then move on your side and towards rolling out the muscle behind your hip bone (medial glut) while avoiding rolling on the hip bone itself as this can irritate the bursa close to it.
2. Hip Flexor Stretch
3. Foam Roller for ITB and Quad Stretch