Although I don’t have a medical degree of any sort, I’m my own chronic pain expert having lived with fibromyalgia for more than 14 years, finding out through trial and error what helps and what hinders. Although far from cured, the pain that was once debilitating is now manageable, albeit annoying.
The latest addition to my pain reduction toolkit — and it’s a big toolkit — is the foam roller.
Every night before bed I lie lengthwise on my roller for 15 minutes and let the knots of tension in my body relax. My body, which is perched for action during the day, sinks into the roller and that relaxation helps me sleep better, and a better sleep means less pain in the daytime.
In addition, I use the roller to release trigger points (also known as self-myofascial release) on my upper back and shoulders as well as the exquisitely tender spots underneath my armpit. I apply pressure to the tight muscle (I have an abundance of places to choose from) using the roller and my body weight. “When you find areas that are tight or painful, pause for several seconds and relax as much as possible,” says breakingmuscle.com. “You should slowly start to feel the muscle releasing, and after 5-30 seconds the discomfort or pain should lessen.” As Elliott Hulse points out in this video on foam rolling, your soft tissues will resist if you roll too quickly.
Creator of The MELT Method, manual therapist Sue Hitzmann, points out that you should never roll out areas that are inflamed, otherwise you might increase the inflammation. (MELT is a chronic pain reduction method that uses soft rollers and soft balls.) “If you find a spot that’s sensitive, it’s a cue to ease away from that area by a few inches. Take time and work a more localized region around areas that feel sore before using larger, sweeping motions,” suggests Hitzmann in the Are You Foam Rolling All Wrong? article.
Foam rolling is no magic bullet for pain reduction — at least in my case — but it’s enjoyable and relaxing, and combined with other methods (deep breathing, body awareness exercises, bodywork, therapeutic pilates, meds, etc.) it does diminish the aches I feel. And, if you’re a pain sufferer like me, you grab on to whatever technique works — we’re all too familiar with the plethora of pain cures that are anything but.