Written by Caren White
I remember the very first time I booked a 60 minute massage. I had started my new job a few weeks earlier, and every morning and evening I was commuting well over an hour to and from the office. I knew how long 60 minutes felt like in the car and I was more than ready to spend the same amount of time in the capable hands of a licensed massage therapist! The daily commute and eight hours in front of my computer everyday was really taking a toll on the muscles in my neck, shoulders, lower back and even my hips! Every day, I felt like I woke up with more kinks in my body than when I went to sleep. This is going to be fantastic, I thought to myself after hanging up the phone with the massage clinic.
And it was! I felt so great after my 60 minute massage that I told myself it was well worth the $100 spent. I left the massage clinic feeling like I was floating to the car. I sang along to the radio the whole car ride home (which I never do during my daily commute, being way too cranky) and woke up the next morning still feeling like a hundred bucks.
But here’s where things got complicated. The next week, I was fully ready to release those bodily kinks again. I laid down another $100 and laid right back down on that massage table. And the next week…and the next. By the next month when I examined my budget and expenses, it hit me: I had spent over $500 in massages (and tips) that month.
I couldn’t help it. I was addicted to feeling those bodily aches and pains release through my weekly massage. The daily commute, too much time at my computer, and not sleeping well left my body feeling sore, tired and weakened. But there was no way I could afford to get weekly massages anymore! There has to be a better way, I told myself.
So I began to do my research about why the particular type of massage I was getting felt so good! And why the effects from my massage didn’t stop when I got off the table. I felt great for days after getting a massage. And that’s how I first learned about fascia and foam rolling.
Fascia is the biological fabric that holds our bodies together. It’s an interconnected web of thin, strong, elastic connective tissue existing between the layers of muscle fibres, between muscles, around organs. It’s vast—covering every nerve ending, muscle and organ of the body-and it’s a MAJOR player in the way our bodies move, react and recover. I had assumed that the deep tissue massages I had gotten so addicted to were just really intense muscle rubs. But I was so wrong. Every time I got a deep tissue massage, I was actually experiencing something called Myofascial Release. This technique involves applying gentle, sustained pressure into the connective fascia. This in turn releases restricted areas of the fascia (remember those ‘kinks’ I woke up with everyday?) and increases mobility and rang of motion.
There’s a lot more to the science of fascia and Myofascial Release. But basically, I learned two things. One, my massage therapist is an incredibly gifted, talented and wonderful person and I owe her a fruit basket and a Thank You card. Two, I don’t actually need to pay $100 an hour for myofascial release. I can do it at home (every single day!) with a $40 foam roller that can be used over and over again. In fact, there are affordable foam rollers for every part of your body! And they can be used at home, in the gym—even in my office on my break.
And foam rolling is simple. It couldn’t be more inexpensive, more easy to learn or more low-tech. Let’s just talk about my lower back for a minute. My lower back hurt daily when I finished my daily commute. I just couldn’t understand why. I’m not happy to admit it, but I spend 11 to 12 of my waking hours every day just sitting down. Sitting in the car, sitting at my computer, and then usually sitting on the couch for an hour or two in the evening after hitting the gym and the grocery store. You would think that all that sitting would keep my back relaxed. But I couldn’t be more wrong. The human body isn’t made to sit all day! Our bodies are designed to live like cave men. Hunting, gathering, running and climbing for survival. When we spend the whole day sitting down, the fascia in our bodies tighten up. And as I already explained, the fascia covers everything- including your lower back. Hence, my lower back felt like a small army was walking across it daily, planting land mines of tiny, tight little fascial knots. Land mines that seemed to explode when I rolled out of bed the next morning.
Now, I’m happy to admit that not only am I not rolling out of bed in the morning, I’m springing out of it! Ok, maybe not everyday because Monday mornings are still tough. But I can tell you that after a week of using a foam roller for myofascial release, I was definitely a much more chipper morning person. The foam roller I use for my lower back in the BLACKROLL STANDARD ROLL. It’s cheaper than a massage therapist, I use it for 20 minutes a day, and my lower back has never felt better.
I’ve even been foam rolling in my office. I keep a BLACKROLL MINI and MICRO ROLL in my desk drawers and when I’m talking on the phone, I keep it on speaker and use them on my neck, face and shoulders. I’ve even started using them on my wrists because foam rolling may reduce your chances of getting painful cramps prolonged typing (again, it’s all about that myofascial release to keep your body limber). At first I was getting a lot of strange looks from my coworkers (I see you Debbie from Accounting) but I’m happy to report that the foam rolling trend is spreading and I’m not the only one picking up the habit!
So, if you’re like me and you spend too much time in the car, too much time at the computer, too much time sitting down—or if you’re just addicted to getting massages and spending waaaay too much money—now is the time to try foam rolling. You don’t have to spend $100 an hour anymore. You can spend $40 on one foam roller and lifetime of happiness.