Foam rollers and spikey balls- what’s all the fuss about?

Feeling tight? Tense? Sore? Wanting some self-management techniques between those Physio consults or massages? At PMPP, we’re huge fans of using home-based equipment to keep your aches and pains in check between coming in for your treatments or Pilates classes. Foam rollers and spikey balls are particularly useful for trigger point release.

Clinical examples:

Let’s take a classic example and one we see on a daily basis in the clinic. The office worker with sore, tight shoulders and stiff upper/mid back and neck due to longer hours at a computer. This posture is not very conducive to keeping your muscles at their normal length. Over time poor posture causes the muscles at the front of the shoulder and neck to tighten up and further minimise spinal range of movement. These tight muscles form bands of tension that we refer to as “trigger points”. You will know when you touch one as it is usually extremely painful but feels amazing once you have either had treatment or done some self-management to release the tension. Depending on where these trigger points are anatomically, they can refer pain to different areas of the body. They can also cause the nearby joints to stiffen up if left unattended. Physiotherapy uses numerous techniques such as dry-needling, myofascial release and joint mobilisation to help release tight muscles and stiff joints. I have found that patients tend to get the best result from treatment when they intersperse foam rolling and/or spikey ball release between their Physiotherapy consultations.

A classic example is gluteal tightness associated with low back pain. The glutes can tighten up to protect and stabilise the lower back and pelvis. If left untreated, this can cause painful bands of tension around the sides and back of the glutes. Dry-needling is one way to help release this and I would suggest using either a foam roller or spikey ball (spikey ball is more painful!) to release the tension between Physio appointments.

Below is a link of foam roller and spiky ball exercises. Please consult with your treating Physiotherapist to ensure these are appropriate for you and let the equipment work its magic!

– Ali

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