It's 2012 and the running joke with my friends is, “I wear Crocs because I don't know how to tie my shoes.” The truth is, I wore Crocs because I couldn't bend over to tie shoes… And also I love Crocs. Every single day I had chronic pain, and would take somewhere between 20-26 200mg ibuprofen (yes that is over 4g per day, I know) just to get some relief from the different aches and pain. While I got some relief, it was never long enough or complete enough for me to enjoy most daily activities. I sat down one day on a baseball, because my training partner Joe Mosher told me it would get rid of my sciatic pain, and 15 minutes later I had no pain. NONE.
All I could think about is how I had just been dealing with pain and eating Motrin like candy for 4-5 months, and how all that could have been relieved in 15 minutes if I just sat on a baseball! I started putting that ball everywhere I had pain, and while it would take my breath away or cause me temporary pain, my body hurt less each day and less importantly to me at the time, my positions in weightlifting got better.
Mobility has become a focal point in my life, because it got rid of so much pain from my daily living. After playing football for 11 years I was beat up, had horrific range of motion, and almost no stability at any point in my body. Most of this was self inflicted because of the way I was lifting weights: partial ROMs, poor technique, too much weight, too much rest, and no stretching all played a huge roll in my issues. The use of self myofascial release (SMR) completely changed my world.
Like my training partner Joe told me that day, I would find myself telling other people to try it, and they would have the same reaction. With this I realized I needed to know more about SMR before I could confidently tell people what would help them. Flash forward 6 years and I still spend more time researching this than almost everything else, mostly because I know how much pain sucks.
I wrote this today knowing that someone is going to be in a similar situation and they may just be avoiding fixing it because they aren't sure if they can. But I can assure you that 95% of your chronic pains can be improved with SMR and training smart. 95% is a lot, and no your problems probably aren't in the remaining 5%. If you have done SMR before and had little to no improvement, you probably didn't do the right SMR, or you never fixed your training, or you didn't give yourself enough time to improve the issue.
Taking the time to learn about how the body is connected and dependent on fascia opened new doors for improvement that I didn't know were possible. Research has been showing that when properly performed, SMR can help lower blood pressure, stress, heart rate, improve pain tolerance, and increase ROM.
The reality is it does all of those things. But the fact that I have seen spending 5 minutes on a foam roller completely eliminate a 50 year old woman's need for a knee replacement is the true magic. The same goes for individuals with shoulder issues, labral tears, rotator cuff injuries, impingements, and plantar fascitis. Don't deal with your pain, just get rid of it.
If you're a weightlifter or athlete of any kind, targeted mobility in between sets on days where you're struggling to move can help you reclaim ROM and ensure your movements are safe and crisp. If for some reason you are feeling like I was back in 2012 living off ibuprofen, you're doing your body serious damage in many different ways. If you have tried NSAIDS and other means like that with little luck do yourself a favor and start learning about fascia for yourself.
Okamoto T, Masuhara M, Ikuta K. Acute effects of self-myofascial release using a foam roller on arterial function. (2014, January). Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research.
MacDonald, Graham Z.; Penney, Michael D.H.; Mullaley, Michelle E.; Cuconato, Amanda L.; Drake, Corey D.J.; Behm, David G.; Button, Duane C. An Acute Bout of Self-Myofascial Release Increases Range of Motion Without a Subsequent Decrease in Muscle Activation or Force
Gary Fryer The effect of manual pressure release on myofascial trigger points in the upper trapezius muscle.