Foam rolling is all the rage right now. It seems like everyone has a blog touting its tremendous capacity to relieve your pain or YouTube video showing you how to do it. So why then, do I answer questions on a weekly basis (at least) from clients who are foam rolling their hearts out, but not getting results? The answer is simple: They are foam rolling the wrong area.
Foam rolling alone won’t take your pain away; you have to use that foam roller on the right area. And sometimes the right area seems counter-intuitive. You see, just because an area hurts or is tight does not mean that it will benefit from foam rolling.
First, there are two kinds of tight muscle; long ones and short ones. Second, when muscles are either too long or too short, they are weak. (Hang tight, you’ll see where this one’s going in minute.) The long muscles are stretched or pulled tight and generally hurt all the time. The short ones are contracted tight and usually only hurt when you press on them. Rolling the long ones will only make them longer and weaker. You need to roll the short ones to get them back to their proper length and strength.
But how do you know which ones to roll? Aaaaahhhh, that’s the $64,000 question isn’t it? Unfortunately, there’s no good, one-size-fits-all answer. Your upper back pain ( a common reason for using a foam roller) may be caused by a different set of muscles than your friend’s upper back pain. So, my best answer is to be evaluated by a professional. Trainers, physical therapists, and massage therapists can all do a proper evaluation and tell you which muscles you should roll. They can also show you how to best use your foam roller for your particular issues.
If you’ve been using a foam roller and not getting results, make sure to tell the professional you’re working with which muscles you’ve been rolling and how you’ve been using the roller on them. This will give them valuable information as to which muscles may be involved and also give them a good opportunity to check your rolling technique to see if that’s a factor.