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If you belong to a gym, are involved in yoga or are addicted to foam you may have heard of Self Myofascial Release, which is a great way to stretch out your muscles (more specifically fascia). It is done by grabbing a foam roller (a long foam tube formed into a pipe-like shape), which most exercise facilities have now, and placing it on parts of the body that have lack of motion, the inability for the body to go/stay in anatomical neutral (a 'tip' for another time), or just bother you.
The most common area to 'foam roll' is the lower body. It is done by applying simple body weight onto the foam roller in the area where you desire to stretch. If you have seen this done before, I am sure you have seen people that roll back and forth on a spot to supposedly stretch. That is not the correct way to do it. When you foam roll, you are trying to find spots that hurt when the foam roller is below them, and then hold there until the pain subsides (no, I am not twisted and sadistic, try it). It is finding spots where your fascia has bonded to other fascia and is 'tight', and relieving those spots, which usually ends up hurting a good amount. Always perform Self Myofascial Release slowly. Here is what happens in your body when you foam roll...
You have thousands of muscle fibers in each muscle group in your body. When you lose range of motion or you are tight in certain areas of your body, you have what is commonly known as a 'knot'. Literally the muscle fibers get knotted up, begin to spasm and stop functioning properly. While that is occuring scar tissue begins to form around the spasming muscle fibers, which then become dormant and stop functioning with the rest of the crew. You also lose the ability to burn the calories/use the energy that those muscle fibers could be utilizing.
What foam rolling does is it relieves those muscle fibers of the 'knots'. Apply pressure to those spasming muscle fibers, and when held there it will generally produce discomfort in that area. As the foam roller is held for at least 30 seconds (up to 2 minutes) the spasming muscle fibers begin to loosen up as the scar tissue slowly breaks away from the spasming muscle fibers. The pain should then reduce significantly since the scar tissue has broken away from the muscle fibers, and then the 'Golgi Tendon Organ' (look it up) in each individual muscle fiber tells those fibers to relax, bringing them back into the game along with the rest of the muscle fibers of that muscle group.
Foam rolling increases range of motion, allows you to work harder, burn more calories, get/use more energy, get into shape quicker, move more efficiently...it does much good. Just make sure you drink water immediately after so that you don't get dehydrated. If you have more questions about this, please ask.
Sidenote - this was a hefty explanantion; if anyone out there believes I am anatomically wrong then write an explanation of 'why' equally as hefty. Thanks.
I get Rolfed a lot. This sounds like a low cost approach to the same thing. Thanks.
thanks so much you are the first person on the web to recomend a solution all the others do is explain it and not as well either. I have chronic problems due to my job and I hope your advice helps.