So we are always telling you to grab a foam roller and start rolling out some part of your body, but why do we ask you and what happens when you do it?
First off, foam rolling aka “self-myofascial release” (SMR) is not intended as something to just keep you busy, and no, it has nothing to do with mayonnaise.
The official term for self-massage, and it can be done with a foam roller, lacrosse ball, or any object, like a barbell or even kettlebell. You apply pressure on specific points in your body (muscles) also known as triggerpoints.
Triggerpoints are tight knots or spots in the muscles, and by applying this pressure, you allow them to return to a normal function. Foam rolling can help break up muscle knots and restore blood flow back into the area. It also helps to increase mobility.
What are Trigger Points?
Triggerpoints form only in muscles. They form as a local contraction in a small number of muscle fibers in a larger muscle or muscle bundle. These in turn can pull on tendons and ligaments associated with the muscle and can cause pain deep within a joint where there are no muscles.
So for example, a trigger point in the trapezius can cause a headache. This is called a “referred pain pattern”.
Trigger points can vary in size, from a pinhead to about the size of a pea. In muscles that are larger, it could be the size of a 10 cent coin.
There are 2 types of triggerpoints, either active or latent. Active triggerpoints often refer to other areas in the body, like the previously mentioned headache, or a back pain cause by a triggerpoint in the hip.
Latent triggerpoints only produce pain when you press on it. Those of you that have been to the mobility classes, can probably remember 😉
Why does it hurt?? And why would I do something that hurts??
Well, to speak in the words of the inventor of the term triggerpoint, Janet Travell, “a highly irritable localized spot of exquisite tenderness in a nodule (trigger point) in a palpable taut band of muscle tissue.” Which, in plain English, means a triggerpoint will really hurt when you press on it.
Like described earlier, foam rolling restores blood flow and breaks up those knots. It helps to relax tight muscles or adhesions between muscle layers. But yes, it will hurt.
Does it actually help?
There is still limited study data available, but these studies have shown to significantly improve performance after SMR. Some areas will show immediate improvement, other areas might new several treatments before you notice any result.
Just like training, treating trigger points is an ongoing process and should be a part of your training- and recovery program. The most common mobility tools, the foam roller and lacrosse ball, are both available for sale at Mobilis CrossFit.
Foam Roller €45,-
Lacrosse ball €5,-
Do you have persistent pains that don’t go away over time? Make sure you schedule a physiotherapy consult with Daphne, via firstname.lastname@example.org