As you may know, I have had issues with my back for a while now. I trained improperly over developing the muscles in my back and not doing enough stretching or balanced muscle development. After a while the pain became so bad that my back muscles would seize up causing severe pain in my back and neck and loss of mobility.
I had to take a break from rigorous kung fu training and try to let my injured back recover. First I went to a very talented traditional Chinese doctor, who performed qigong massage and cupping on my back. His combination of herbal liniments, massage technique, acupuncture and cupping did wonders for my back, allowing the muscles to finally start relaxing. After some time I also visited a chiropractor to begin correcting some of the alignment issues caused by my muscles being so tense and unbalanced.
While these efforts helped tremendously, I still had stiff sore muscles and any amount of physical stress seemed to make it worse, sometimes even aggravating the original injury. My personal training has been very limited in both scope and intensity because of the fear of re-injuring myself. Often I would try to start training again only to have to stop shortly after due to the pain in my back. This has made it very difficult to maintain any sort of motivation for physical activity.
For the most part I have observed that over time the pain is becoming much less and my back can handle a lot more strain before I start to feel the warning signs that mean I have pushed it too far. I have intermittently practiced qigong and light stretching which always helps, but I admit I was not very consistent with it. I also find that some of the painful areas of my back and neck are very difficult for me to stretch.
I was talking about this with my friend the other day to see if he had any ideas on how to more effectively stretch some of these sore spots and he suggested that I get a foam roller. I picked one up the next day, and I must admit, it has really helped in a lot of ways.
The foam roller is a stiff foam cylinder that you can use to perform self myofascial release on your muscles. Basically you rest a limited muscle group on the foam roller such as your calf muscle or back allowing your weight and posturing to adjust the pressure. Then you roll yourself along the roller to massage the muscles. When you find a particularly sore spot you should stay on that spot and hold it for 20 – 30 seconds while trying to relax the muscle. By repeating this on the different muscle groups of the body you can help release stress and increase flexibility and range of motion. This makes it a great addition to any stretching routine and for assisting with muscle recovery.
I have used the foam roller for a few days now and the results are promising. Sometimes while using the foam roller on certain muscle groups like my quadriceps, I encounter sever pain. It can be challenging even holding the position for 20 – 30 seconds. After I am finished, however, I feel fantastic. I feel very loose and relaxed and the pain in my back is almost non-existent. The next day my back will feel sore again, but it is the type of soreness you might feel after a very deep rigorous massage and is a welcome change from the pain I usually experience. I am going to continue to use the foam roller with my qigong practice and stretching routine with the hope that I can finally get this injury under control and return to my kung fu training.