Sports massage, foam rollers and stretching can all play a vital part in musculoskeletal health.

All three modalities offer multiple benefits. Which one is going to help the most though? This is dependent largely on the issue and the person. Let’s explain it by pointing out the positives and negatives of all three.

With some education and practice, a foam roller can be used on lots of different muscle groups, so long as you can apply force directly onto the foam roller. For such muscle groups as the quads, hamstrings, ITB, calves, buttocks, thoracic region and pecs, it can be used with great effect. However it unfortunately falls short on many of the muscles in the upper body because of the direct force element. The main thing to think about with the foam roller though is the surface area. They are large cylindrical pieces of foam with a large surface area. So is it going to get into small hard to find knots… no. Is it going to offer a broad myofascial release and stretch to most muscles… most definitely YES.

Stretching

Do I do static stretching before or after my work out? What is dynamic stretching? How long should I hold the stretch for? Is dynamic stretching harmful, like ballistic stretching used to be?

These are the common questions I get repeatedly asked as a sports massage therapist. Should people stretch… yes, but only if they have been properly educated on how and when. “I pulled my shoulder stretching?” Poor quality or poor timing led to this. A good sports massage therapist will tell you how and when to stretch a muscle, so if in doubt get the proper advice first. With proper advice (not from your mate Dave with the big biceps), stretching is very effective at lengthening a muscle. Grab an elastic band and fix one end whilst pulling it from the other end… you have a stretch! The downside is many muscles are extremely difficult to stretch due to the way some joints move. The other downside is that knots only react positively to direct pressure, not being stretched.

What does a sports massage offer?

Well firstly it’s more qualified than a foam roller and most of the people that attempt to use them.
As long as you go to a reputable clinic and do a little research on the therapist, a sports massage will always come up trumps against a foam roller or simply stretching muscles. Sports massage can be defined in a nutshell as restoring length and quality to muscles. If muscles are shortened or have knots and trigger points in them, the end result is inefficient movement and pain. Sports massage is specific, which is the key to eliminating and alleviating most muscular pain. Surface area of a foam roller compared to a well trained thumb…. Sports massage every time.

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Cally Morfitt

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