At some point in our lives we all experience muscle tightness or even minor pains that we sometimes can’t explain. When dealing with these pains we often have to look at the soft tissues of the body and how they are reacting with each other. Soft tissues are simply your muscles, and each muscle is connected to another by the connective tissue known as fascia. For the body to move properly the muscles should be able to slide on one another using the fascia as a guide. When this relationship is not kept properly the body will resort to compensatory movements. How do you keep this from happening? The easiest way would be to simply use a foam roller.

foam roller

foam roller

            When the muscles and fascia begin to stick together it is called an adhesion. Adhesions can cause certain muscles to quit working right and other muscles have to pick up the slack for the lazy muscle with the adhesion. As time goes on, that adhesion becomes harder and harder to release with a simple stretch. Sometimes it takes manual release with things like a foam roller. The pressure from the foam roller can begin to loosen the fascia and allow these muscles to move freely once again. If an adhesion is left alone for too long medical intervention, for example Active Release Technique, may have to be taken.

            Not only will a foam roller break apart adhesions, but it can also begin to break down scar tissues that have formed within the soft tissue over time. Why is this important? Well let’s say we have a muscle the size of a deck of cards. If this muscle has a portion where scar tissue the size of a quarter has formed on it, that quarter sized piece of muscle will not work properly. This can cause other muscles to compensate in order to make movements seem easier to the brain. These scar tissues, though sometimes deep within tissue, can sometimes be found near the surface. This allows the pressure from a foam roller to break them up and release the muscle to move freely through the proper range of motion.

            After reading these last two statements you may be wondering how you are supposed to find these spots. More often than not these spots will reveal themselves as sore spots or knots underneath the skin. These spots are known as your ‘trigger points.’ Focusing on these trigger points can greatly increase your performance in your training session by, one bringing blood back to the area, and two allowing that muscle to move freely.

            It may seem hard to imagine that a simple piece of foam can do so much for the human body. Do things such as, increase blood flow to soft tissues, breakdown scar tissues, and mobilize muscles that cannot work together properly. Knowing this, it is essential to add foam rolling into any fitness program. After a foam rolling session, along with a proper warm-up, the body can be properly prepared for physical activity, and perform at the level necessary for success.

Nick Lape

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