There’s never anything fun about getting injured, and although accidents can happen, prevention is definitely key! Foam rolling, glute activation and sports massage are all things you might have heard mentioned by fitness professionals, but what do they do and how can they help you stay injury free? We've asked expert physiotherapist, Anna Clayton, to give us the rundown…
Foam rolling can help to mobilise connective and soft tissues (muscles/tendons) that stretching alone or gentle massage doesn’t quite achieve.
It is often called self-myofascial release and works to aid some extensibility to the muscles or fascia (a band or sheet of connective tissue). Any areas of tension through a structure between the bone attachments can also radiate pain along the length of the muscle, fascia or at a joint’s attachment point. Pain around the side of your knee, for example, may be due to tightness or tension held along the iliotibial band (this is the IT band that runs down the outside of the thigh from the shin to the hip) which when released using a foam roller, will settle discomfort.
If pain persists, for example, with a lot of distance running, then getting your biomechanics checked by a physio may be an idea to address the cause of the prolonged irritation.
Compression and rolling over the fascia of the muscles releases the layers of connecting tissue below the skin and improves blood flow. By breaking down local areas of adhesions and increasing blood flow, this reduces waste products from the area.
Activating the gluteal muscles (the bum!) can provide a good foundation for support through functional movements. Squatting, standing up, lunges and other dynamic movements like hops, jumps and running all require an adequate level of glute strength and contraction/control through the movement to maintain good upper and lower body postures.
You can see how this deteriorates as we age and people start needing to push themselves out of chairs. The ability to activate the glutes helps to propel us upwards from sitting and forwards when walking. We only lose hip extension from the age of 75 so it should be something we maintain throughout adult years. Something called a Trendelenburg gait is developed if the glutes don’t adequately support the pelvis as we transfer load from side to side. It can dip or drop as the ligaments and joint takes up the slack in the movement when the muscles have not done their job.
Shoulder and glute bridging is a good way to improve this, as well as squeezing your glutes (even as you read this!) to keep the muscles engaged and contracting statically.
Regular Sports Massages
The benefits of having a sports massage are huge; you will feel improved flexibility, reduced risk of injury, and boosted circulation. It’s not always without a little bit of discomfort though! This depends on the pressure applied by the therapist or how much activity you have done and how much soft tissue inflammation your body may have produced as a result of a hard or sustained workout. On the most part, it will relieve post exercise tenderness and muscle soreness but it is not unusual to feel a little ache after a decent massage.
Sports massage is designed to help correct problems and imbalances in soft tissue that have been caused by repetitive and strenuous physical activity and trauma.
A pre and post sports massage helps to enhance performance, aid rehabilitation and prevent injury. Areas of tension within the muscle fibres can be tender locally when pressed and nerve pain receptors can enhance these as muscle soreness. Joint range of movement can be maintained as a result of massage to help address muscle imbalances or spasm.
It is a skilled manual application of soft tissue using remedial techniques that are selected and performed after careful consultation and recording of medical history and appropriate general and specific assessment.
Sports massage treatment is adapted to an individual’s needs, and the pressure applied and techniques are specific to every individual and their needs, treatment will include evaluation and monitoring of client which takes into consideration age, health, lifestyle, physical capabilities or restrictions and previous work/ sporting history as well as everyday aches and pains.
This blog was written by Anna Clayton: Anna works at Bury Physiotherapy Clinic as a Senior Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist and has recently completed a MSc in Advanced Physiotherapy. She teaches regular Pilates classes including a Pink Pilates; specifically for breast cancer patients. At the clinic she offers patients acupuncture alongside other treatment techniques to help people back to normal day to day activities, sports and hobbies - she is all for functional movement! Anna enjoys keeping fit and active with regular running (the odd half or full marathon), occasional cycling and was a rower and heptathlete in her youth.