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Roll yourself to better health!

As a practising osteopath I am not only interested in what direct treatments I can use to relieve symptoms but also any self-help strategies I can advise. One area that I am particularly keen on is encouraging patients to speed up their recovery by stretching. When treating a patient, I understand an individual’s specific problems and can, therefore, prescribe appropriate exercises they can use at home.

So what’s in a stretch?

Stretching is a natural activity that often occurs instinctively, e.g. when we first wake up in the morning or after a long period of inactivity. We’ve all heard about the importance of stretching before and after exercise, to avoid injury. However, with the increasingly sedentary lifestyles we lead, I believe stretching has a place in everyday life to try and avoid the build up of muscle knots or trigger points.

These normally occur following an injury or when we put a muscle in a continuous state of contraction, eg. holding a phone between your shoulder and ear, for extended periods of time. However, by the time patients consult me, they normally already have some knots/trigger points so stretching alone is unlikely to resolve the problem.

Muscle knots are an abnormal area in the muscle where a group of muscle fibres remain contracted.

Trigger points are tender spots/knots in skeletal muscle which when triggered may cause the pain to radiate to a wider area, sometimes distant from the actual trigger point.

Foam Rollers

Foam rollers are an inexpensive piece of equipment, which I do recommend to some patients for use in between treatments. They often then continue using them afterwards to minimise a recurrence of their symptoms. Foam rollers have many uses, as follows:

Stretch, Strengthen, Massage, Stabilise

The joy of using a foam roller is that you are doing more than one thing at once so as you are using it to do a stretch or a strengthening exercise, you also have to balance. This increases your body awareness and strengthens your deep muscles, thus stabilising and supporting your spine. By rolling your body on the roller, you can help to breakdown adhesions/ scar tissue/ knots/ trigger points and increase blood supply to your tissues. The good thing is that you get feedback – as you improve, the discomfort from rolling diminishes.

Tips when using a foam roller

  • As you use your own body weight to roll, you are in control of how much pressure you apply. Most benefit will be gained if the roller is used little and often so try not to make yourself so sore that you cannot roll the next day.
  • As you move on the roller, you can remain on any knot/trigger point until the pain starts to dwindle, before you then continue rolling the remainder of the muscle.
  • Always roll towards your heart.

Remember, stretching can cause injury if done incorrectly so seek advice from a professional, if you need to. I have a team of Osteopaths, at The Odiham Clinic, who can help to relieve your pain and/or give you advice on how to stretch. I always keep Sissel Foam Rollers in stock and we would be pleased to show you how to use them.

So consider rolling yourself to better health and you might be surprised at how effective it is!