By Amber Wingerson
I have been a patient of Christine Roper’s for almost 12 years now. I came to Roper PT as a college senior with a hip injury from soccer that had been persisting for over a year. Christine helped me work through that injury and get back to running, playing soccer, and being active. Since then, I consistently come in for therapy even when I was in graduate school in Pittsburgh. I would make appointments when I came back to NC to see my family. I trust her approach to physical therapy and myofascial release on all of the random injuries I have sustained through my soccer leagues as well as when I am healthy and attempting to stay that way. However, I had never been to one of the Roper PT foam roll workshops until recently. I knew about the foam roll classes, how they were developed, and I have owned and used a foam roll since my first therapy sessions with Christine. While, I am admittedly not consistent in my foam rolling, I am pretty good about rolling out my back each evening and can tell a difference when I forget. So, I made sure to sign up for the January foam roll class and was looking forward to everything I would learn.
Shannon Mullaly PT, MPT, CIMT, CSCS leads the foam roll workshops at Roper PT. She started the class with an explanation of what fascia is and what we would be attempting to do with our foam rolls. Once we knew what our goal was, she had us close our eyes, march in place, and then plant our feet. Keeping our eyes closed, we mentally examined our bodies, noticing how our weight was distributed, if our arms were by our sides, if one knee was straightened and the other bent, and how our back and neck felt. To be frank, I was horrified as I did this. I felt like my left foot was holding weight only on the outside of the foot and that I was leaning forward and to the right. All I could do was imagine a picture that was taken of me in my first treatment session 12 years ago, where I have an exaggerated version of this posture. However, I did not have a lot of time to worry about this, because we started the class.
For the next hour, we foam rolled from head to toe! We started with our necks and slowly worked our way down to our calves. In between the foam rolling, we completed long stretches that coincided with the foam roll exercises and were included to help patients get the most out of each foam roll exercise. As we went over exercises that targeted our sides and backs, there were some groans. These exercises were definitely hitting some tender spots for people throughout the packed room! As we had been told at the beginning of the class, foam rolling can be painful, but the pain was often an indication that areas were tight and needed attention. As someone who does a lot of computer work and research, I shouldn’t have been surprised by some of the tighter areas in my upper back, but I was. So, I tried to keep in mind what Shannon said, held some uncomfortable positions, and did my best to breathe while doing this!
By the time we got to the foam roll exercises for our legs, I felt like was getting better at foam rolling. My upper body was also the tighter half, so it may have just been easier. But, in the moment I choose to pretend that I just had a better handle on it! Once we finished with our calves, Shannon had us stand up and start marching in place with our eyes closed. Just as we did in the beginning, we did a few steps, planted our feet, and re-examined our bodies.
I felt so much better! I didn’t feel that distinct pull of forward and to the right, and weight on my left foot seemed to be distributed more evenly. I could tell I still have some tight areas and work to do, but there was a significant difference from the beginning.
Since the class, I foam roll much more often and I am sure to foam roll a lot more than just my back! We were given a packet with pictures of the each pose and I refer to it to make sure I don’t forget anything. I know that learning how to do self-myofascial release through foam rolling will be so helpful in between those physical therapy sessions!