Pros for foam rolling
Foam rolling provides a repeated stroke form of massage for muscles. It is great for loosening muscles that are hard to stretch like the tensor fasciae latae (TFL) or the lateral and medial most fibers of the gastrocnemius. Foam rolling is less expensive than going to see a massage therapist every day but it is also less effective. Any massage therapist that uses a foam roller on themselves will tell you that foam rolling is great. But if you asked them if they would rather see another massage therapist or foam roll, they will tell you they would prefer to see a massage therapist. That being said, if you can foam roll a few times a week this will help you make it to your next massage.
Cons for foam rolling
Most people foam roll after they exercise which is great! But what I am seeing is that this is taking the place of stretching. While foam rolling is better than stretching for a select few muscles; it should not take the place of stretching.
How long to foam roll
For any given section that you feel like you need to work on, I recommend ten passes. One pass is rolling away from your body and back to where you started.
How to localize a trigger point
It should feel like a little bump in the muscle and it will be more painful that the rest of the muscle area. If you are completely unfamiliar with what a trigger point feels like, have your massage therapist point a few out to you the next time you are on their table. Once you get the feel for trigger points, they are easy to find.
Cautions for Foam Rolling
Don’t roll over bone. I try and leave about an inch between where the foam roller is contacting me and where the bone is. If you are rolling directly over the bone you have the potential to give yourself bursitis. I also don’t foam roll my back. I know a lot of people do but this, but it causes the foam roller to go directly over your spine and rib heads. I have seen some pretty intense misalignments from this behavior. Usually it ends with the rib head going out of alignment and causing severe pain. And then you have to see me. 🙁