Foam rollers, trigger point balls, massage guns and many other devices are becoming more and more popular within the running community with the aim of relaxing the muscles and decreasing tension. Firstly, it is important to appreciate that no matter how much pressure you subject yourself to using these devices, you will not manually break down any ‘scar tissue’ or ‘adhesions’. However, these devices can assist with the reduction of perceived pain levels and improve range, which are important to recovery. This is why the approach of ‘the more pain the better’ is misguided and can be counterproductive. We often see people in the clinic with bruises from using these devices and this is not beneficial. It is important to be able to keep the muscle relaxed when using these tools and this should help guide which to use and for how long to use it for. Our advice would be that you should feel improvements after finishing, rather than noticing tenderness or soreness. There are also some key areas to avoid due to boney prominences and more superficial nerves and blood vessels. Please also avoid your Iliotibial Band (IT Band) which is the firm strip down the side of your thigh as this is another common misconception. This is a fibrous band and, due to its attachment points, will not lengthen, so there’s no need to keep trying! If in any doubt, please consult your therapist first. Below is a collection of approaches for different muscle groups.
Click on the title of the exercise for the annotated video.