I remember the first time I used a foam roller on my ITB. It hurt like hell, but I noticed I had increased ROM in my normally tight hip. I was able to squat with less pinching anteriorly, and my knee felt better when I ran. So I did the normal progression any runner/athlete would do after having results with pain - I progressed the force when the technique stopped hurting.
My progression was one you might find familiar - standard white foam roll --> bad-ass looking black foam roll --> OW - that's got to be doing something --> PVC pipe because apparently my leg wore out the super hard foam roller.
Either you soften your abnormally high tone, and/or your nervous system basically stops perceiving rolling as threatening, but one thing is for certain, you're NOT deforming fascia or breaking up scar tissue with foam rolling (or any other manual technique). At least not in the short term. For a review, check out my Myths of Manual Therapy Part 1.
Here are 5 Pain Free Ways to Use a Foam Roller - 3 for mobility and 2 for stability/strengthening.
1) Hooklying on Foam Roll
- one of my favorite things to have sedentary office workers do to break up their day
- leave a foam roll at the office and take 5-10 min out of the lunch break and lie on a foam roll parallel to the spine
- they can perform scapula retractions, wall angels, etc to further stretch the UQ
2) Hooklying Thoracic Extension
- this is a great and easy way to improve thoracic mobility
- after the patient improves with your manual therapy, they can keep the effects going and promote threat free trunk rotation, shoulder mobility and cervical mobility with self P/A mobilization to their thoracic and upper thoracic spine
3) Quadruped Trunk Rotation + Foam Roll
- this is a great foam roll assisted variation on the quadruped, lumbar locked trunk rotation mobility drill
- the lower arm is assisted by rolling on the foam roll, and you can vary the amount of shoulder IR/ER, to also stretch the shoulder in addition to getting trunk rotation
4) Dead Bug on Foam Roll
- thanks to my very close friend, and cyborg, Chris Johnson for putting me through this drill
- dead bug with alternating leg and arm progressions on a foam roller are tougher than they look!
- also, I am no Chris Johnson, who could probably do this in his sleep
5) Killer Bridges on Foam Roll
- yes, these are pain free exercises/mobility drills but this one can certainly burn!
- alternate pulses to get warmed up, roll out a few times and progress to alternating SLR
- I have to reiterate, I am no Chris Johnson, because I thought my knees were more extended when I was doing the SLR in the video (fatigued from running)
Remember, all of these should be pain free as always! The perception of stretch and effort is one thing, but pain is just going to cause an alert in the central nervous system. That actually will increase tightness and alter motor control, defeating the purpose. Hope you like these vids and comment on the facebook page or below!
Interested in live cases where I apply this approach and integrate it with pain science, manual therapy, repeated motions, IASTM, with emphasis on patient education? Check out Modern Manual Therapy!
Keeping it Eclectic...