Foam Roller

I have a foam roller. My friend, Tracey, who is a physical therapist, gave me one a couple years ago. She showed me a few exercises I can do with it but basically I use it to roll out my IT band. (When I think about it.)

You might have read some of my postings about cramps I often get on hard rides, especially when a lot of climbing is involved. The cramps are always in my right inside thigh and can either happen on the bike, as was the case at Turtle Pond in April, or after a ride when sitting for a while.

I’ve attributed these cramps to a lot of things – nutrition, hydration, vitamin deficiency, not stretching, etc. But who really knows.

Recently I’ve been seeing a chiropractor for a back issue. Since he’s familiar with Active Release Treatments and has worked a some Ironman events, I thought I’d ask him about my cramps. He did a couple sessions of active release in this area. The second time he told me he couldn’t believe the adhesions built up in that area, as well as on the left side, but definitely more on the right.

Since he “released” me from therapy, he told me to stretch my quads a couple times a day. (As I type this I realize I haven’t even stretched them once today. Shame on me!)

He also suggested that I use my foam roller on my thigh. Basically I lay on the floor, with my thigh perpendicular over the roller, and work the thigh over it from the knee to the top of the thigh. He said I might just start out holding a position on the roller with the thigh until the adhesions got a little looser. So I started doing it. As he said, I’m not rolling on it much right now because it’s so tight and painful. Once I get about 1/3 of the way up my thigh the pain is pretty intense. So I just rest on it and work my thigh down it slowly.

I think it’s helped too, because after I did it a couple times and then stretched, I had to go deeper into a lunge to feel the stretch.

I also use my foam roller to lay on, with the roller positioned under the length of my spine and my arms splayed out to the side. It’s a great stretch to open up my tight shoulders from hunching over the bike so much.

Do you own a foam roller? If so, what stretches do you do with it?


3 responses to “Foam Roller

  1. Dana,

    You’re probably aware that your iliotibial band is on the outside of the knee / thigh, not the inside.

    My recommendation rather than rolling your muscles with a foam roller would be to hit the gym and specifically work on strengthening the muscle that is cramping. I find that strengthening is the antidote that I use for most everything, short of acute injuries.

    If something hurts, I use various exercise machines, try to isolate the muscle group, and then work on motion + strength together. The pain almost always go away, and the injured feels better afterwards and more resistant to future injury. Injured joints heal and work better, particularly knees, when the surrounding tendinous structures are strengthened and allow less laxity.

    Providing that I ride sensibly, I’ve done much better at feeling fit and injury-free than I’ve done in previous decades. As I approach 60 in the next few months, I’m profoundly grateful to be able to stay active (knocking on wood as I write this)

    Cheers from Kennebec County to the north of you.


  2. Great post! Never heard of foam rollers before and I have very tight ITBs…just googled it and found a load of stretches to try. Think I also realized from what you wrote that I probably have adhesions in my quads…during the riding season (mostly) I wondered why they hurt like hell in very specific areas when my kids would jump on my lap. Thanks Dana. Oh…I’ll obviously talk to my doc about this too.

  3. Doug, you are right in that the iliotibial (IT) band is on the outside of the thigh and that was the initial item I used the foam roller on. The cramping is caused from a muscle on the inside of my thigh, the adducter. You also make a great point about strengthen in the muscles. I’m sure that I acquired this over-use injury because I had undeveloped muscles in other areas. All good advise!

    Glenn, my cat used to crawl on the outside of my thigh when I was laying on my side and it hurt like the dickens. That’s definitely a sign that the muscle is really tight. I hope the foam roller helps you as it has helped me!

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