• Rollers and Balls: How to Perform Self Massage

    PhysioRoom.com investigates how you can perform self massage

    Ah the foam roller – the bane of every runners life. From trigger point and myofascial release to general massage the foam roller has become a staple in every runner’s closet. That blue sausage of evil that lurks next to your kit bag and winks at you every time you wince down the stairs. It’s foam roller, it’s foam roller time!

    So what can you do to lessen the pain and heighten the effects of the dreaded foam roller? PhysioRoom.com investigates how you can perform self massage here.

    Why does it hurt so much?

    Trigger points are tiny patches of contracted muscle fibres that can be exceptionally painful and lead to further problems due to over use. Self-massage can hurt because the muscles are in a state of tension where they don’t want to be – they’re angry and they’re letting you know about it. If left untreated trigger point issues can cause other muscles to take the strain of the initially affected area and as such can cause unnecessary strains and ligament damage that could have otherwise been prevented.

    What exactly happens?

    Each muscle is made up of millions of fibres. A trigger point beds its roots in one, or a few muscle fibres being in a constant state of contraction due to a high stress environment (such as a kitchen – or marathon training). This constant state of contraction means that metabolic waste (lactic acid) is constantly pooling around the muscle as it cannot be flushed out by the body due to low circulation.

    This lack of circulation can cause other muscles to develop the same ailments and before long a trigger point has accumulated in the muscle. Over time, if not treated, the trigger point can escalate to the point of muscle dysfunction. At this stage, the danger of injury is most apparent as the body will naturally try to assist the dysfunctional muscle by applying others to help take the strain. And so, muscles whose normal job title is something completely different will find themselves straining to help a dysfunctional one.

    How can you perform self massage?

    By stimulating oxygen flow to the injured party, massage allows the lactic acid build up to be withdrawn from the affected area and releases some of the tension accumulated. Trigger point release through use of a massage ball or foam roller will allow the muscle to finally relax and stop the endless contraction cycle dead in its tracks. This allows metabolic activity to return to normal and halts the spread of trigger point within other areas of the muscle.

    When a trigger point is released, the muscle group as a whole becomes less taxed and prone to injury. This creates an environment where the patient can perform their chosen activity once more with ease. Naturally, self-trigger point release might not always yield the best results and as such many look for alternatives such as physiotherapy or acupuncture which directly focus on the muscle that has become entangled and releases it at the source.

    How can you do it at home?

    There are a number of options available to those afraid of visiting the physiotherapists daunting lair. Both foam rollers and massage balls alleviate the problems associated with trigger points and can help nurse the ailment back to health.

    Foam Rolling: In order to massage the affected area using a foam roller, the patient needs to lie across the roller and utilise the cylindrical shape to roll up and down the area that requires attention. This will perform a deep tissue massage and promote oxygen flow into the working muscle which will assist by removing the surplus of lactic acid from the area. The PhysioRoom.com Foam Roller is available in a number of sizes from PhysioRoom.com and can be used to target areas such as the lower body and back.

    Massage Balling: They may look like those things you stick in the washing machine, but these Spiky Massage Balls from PhysioRoom.com are the perfect addition to any massage routine and can be used to specifically trigger points and work hard to reach areas such as the back or even the feet. By once more using the body’s own weight to apply downward pressure onto the ball, the patient can apply deep tissue massage directly on to a trigger point which allows for an intense massage.

    Please note: Both of these activities may cause some level of discomfort in the first instance as the pressure build up is acutely affected by the movements. Though this discomfort will be prominent it is important to note that a small level of pain at the early stages of onset trigger point problems is far more diminutive than full blown muscle tears and ligament damage that can form if the problem is left untreated.