If you have ever seen a foam roller or tried using one yourself, you probably have an idea that it is intended to “release tight muscles.” In fact, I have described it this way myself many times.
But now I am confessing to crimes of omission.
What I have sometimes neglected to explain during these “crimes of omission” is the foam roller’s role (say THAT ten times fast!) in coaxing myofascial tissue to a healthier, more flexible and resilient state.
And the reason I’ve neglected to explain this concept fully is: it invites more questions, such as:
- What is fascia and myofascial tissue?
- What does it mean for fascia to be healthy?
- What is the significance of having resilient fascial tissue? (and why wouldn’t it already be that way?)
And now we have a longer conversation, which is hard to conduct when I’m trying to keep my client moving at the same time.
For now, I’m going to make it easy on myself (and you) by giving you the best source possible on this topic, Thomas Myers, author of Anatomy Trains. (Hang on, links are coming….)
First I want to share these concepts from Myers’ site:
“Individual muscles acting on bones across joints’ simply does not adequately explain human stability and movement.” “… it is the neuromyofascial web acting as a whole that serves us from second-to-second in gravity and the other forces surrounding and affecting us.”
In other words, we might think of our bodies as a bunch of bones and muscles, with organs and nerves tucked in here and there. But in fact every structure in the body is encased by fascia, and the very same fascia connects each structure with everything else in the body. Plus, this intricate web throughout our bodies has its own intelligence. It has sensory receptors to detect what’s happening in and outside the body as well as mechanisms for transmitting information and responding. And it consists of a complex fluid system that requires adequate hydration to operate optimally.
I know, it’s kind of hard to imagine after learning all our lives that the only organ in charge of these things is our brain.
If you, too, are fascia-nated by these concepts, here’s where you can read more (this is the link to Myers’ material).
Now, what does this have to do with you?
Well, if you have a body, this has everything to do with you!
For now it’s a way of providing context to the value of foam rolling correctly and effectively. Using a foam roller is not just about the muscles; in fact, it’s very much about cultivating the optimal health of myofascial tissue. And you might be surprised to know that the most effective ways to foam roll fascial tissue do NOT include aggressive rolling on a hard roller, especially to the exclusion of certain gentle, technique-specific approaches.