A Foam Roller for Injury Prevention and Massage

8 years ago

See this girl? The agony? The defeat? The PAIN!? She paid at least $14 or so to feel this way. But you know what? Soon she will feel much, much better!

If you have yet to discover the wonders (and the pain!) of the foam roller, fork out $14 or so dollars to do so.

Here's a photo of the real thing up close and personal:

Doesn't look like much, now does it?

I have been running for 12 or so years now and until this past week had never used, or maybe even really seen, a foam roller. In fact, if I hadn't gotten injured during the Disney marathon last Sunday I probably would still not know what one was. (I also wouldn't have discovered the wonderful forum boards over at Runner's World: If you haven't, check them out when you get time.)

Then I got injured and was in a lot of pain and wasn't sure what to do to make the pain go away. A few of the people posting at RW suggested purchasing and testing out the foam roller. Several said they had a lot of pain due to ITBS until they tried a foam roller.

So, I found one (after much searching and finally calling some Physical Therapy offices in town-one did sell them). I did find a few on Amazon, and one came with an exercise video that I considered buying, but with shipping and handling the cost of it would have been close to double what I paid in town. If you have a local sportings store you might want to try that. Even Target has them now (though they were out of them the day that I checked) for about $22, and it comes with a video as well.

Now that you have it, what do you do with it? You roll, baby!

This is the best technique I have found for my tight iliotibial band:

Quite frankly, it hurts. A lot.  Especially in the beginning.

In fact, it hurts not only when you are rolling out the tight muscle but the next few days as your body adjusts to the massaging. You may feel bruised when you try to roll it out again. Don't worry, as it does get better. You can take a day off in between if you want, which will give that area a rest. I did this in the beginning but I now do the foam roller twice a day: Once after I exercise/run/bike, and once at night.

So, is it working? Absolutely. After going only three miles of walk/jog last week (and mainly walking) I was able to run three miles today (with only walking about .25 of a mile!) I am not having pain in my knee anymore, though it does still feel tight. Interestingly enough when I roll it in a certain area on my thigh, I feel that tightness in my knee! So, I know that there is an area that is still quite tight that needs to be massaged out.

Many overuse injuries happen because of the tight band, and once you injure the IT band you should really rest, ice, and deal with the problem rather than run through it. If you don't take care of what is wrong, it won't get better.Unfortunately it is a pretty common complaint and can result in quite a lot of missed running time. If you are used to running high distances, it can be devastating to go to nearly none. Even if you only run 9 or 10 miles a week and you have to stop for a while to rest and ice, you're going to feel it not only physically but up in your brain as well (you know as a runner-running keeps you mentally strong!)

I would suggest picking up one of these and using it daily after running and/or while stretching your body. You can use it not only on the IT band (though I would definitely use it here-even if you are not having problems now-to keep that area loose) but I have used it on my calf muscles, my lower back and the fronts of my legs as well. I'd be proactive about it-buy it and use it so that you don't end up having an injury down the road that forces you to stop running and recover.

Stretches with Photos

I had my husband take a few shots of me this morning after my run so that you could see the stretches that have worked the best. I have been doing these throughout the day. Definitely after a run, or bike, or anytime my muscles are warmed up. But I use them throughout the day here and there when I think about it. They can easily be done anywhere-office, home, I even did a few at the library when I took my kids for story time!

Chair Stretch:

This one is fantastic for the hip and IT area. You sit in a chair with your affected leg crossed over your other leg, the affected leg's ankle area on the knee of the other leg. You then lean forward through your belly button (not just folding over). You'll feel this very strongly in your hip area and the IT band area.

Correct Way:



Incorrect Way:

(Note: My daughter wanted to be included in this post so she is showing incorrect form in this stretch!)


Folding Stretch:

Stand the same way, affected leg behind
the good leg, and then fold over straight down. I keep my affected
leg's knee bent slightly-never do this with your knee hyperextended or
you're just asking for trouble! Go deep into the stretch. I also put my
hands to the side of the affected leg and stretch this way, which can
give you a chance to go even more deeply into the stretch.

Standing Stretch:

Stand with your affected leg slightly behind your good leg (and do this on both legs as a preventative stretch for future injuries!) Place your left hand on the wall and push out toward the affected leg slowlyl, feeling the stretch in that hip and IT area.

I am not a doctor! I'm a runner who has had some issues with ITBS since the Disney marathon and these are things that worked for me. So, I'd suggest first if you have knee problems or pain that is severe, that leaves you unable to walk or get around properly, you see a doctor. If you are looking for some great stretches, these work wonders on that area!

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