You’ve cycled many kilometers during the weekend and fatigue and cold have made your legs tired and painful. You need an urgent massage to be able to get back on the bike in good shape in some days, but the therapist has a full agenda and is not able to find you a spot within a week to treat your tired legs. You trust your therapist and don’t feel like finding someone else and maybe you don’t even know where to look.
But a solution can be found with instruments that in Italy are not commonly used but abroad are used daily by many athletes such as foam rollers and similar tools. In America, there is no gym that does not offer a wide range of these kinds of aids and they are readily available for use at the end of a workout. There are American studies that claim that rolling the muscles back and forth over these rollers, in addition to producing an effective self-massage, can stimulate the production of neurotransmitters that help you relax and relieve the feeling of fatigue.
Start with long rolls. Roll the muscle slowly over the foam roller with long movements, moving from one joint to the other. For example, move from the knee to the ankle and from the knee to the hip. Gradually apply pressure. When you roll on a part of the muscle that feels more sore or sensitive, stop and stay there until you feel the tension slowly leaving. Usually this happens after 20-30 seconds. If, when you stop at a painful spot, the pain increases, then stop rolling. The muscle, if excessively stimulated, can have a contrary response by contracting even more. Another very efficient movement when you find a muscle with parts that are contracted, is to stop the roller at the contracted point and move the joint that is most nearby. For instance, with a contraction in the calve, stop at the contracted point and move the foot by flexing and extending the foot’s dorsal, as such obligating the calve to carry out a simple task while pressing with the roller.
The use of the foam roller is recommended and practically free of contraindications. However, there are a rather high number of cases, especially with runners, where the treatment of a widespread injury such as the iliotibial band syndrome can cause problems. Many runners affected by this painful pathology use the roller by passing it on the tendinous fascia outside the thigh. Rolling this area can however cause further inflammation. In these cases it is advisable to use the roller on the quadriceps and on the tensor fascia latae muscle, near the pelvis.