Knee pain is a common among those in any running program—including those training for the Beast on the Bay. Any time I’ve experienced knee pain, I have been able to resolve it with a technique demonstrated below: self myofascial release and trigger point therapy.
Myofascia is a type of connective tissue that covers and protects structures in the body, including muscles. The other types of connective tissue are tendons and ligaments. When the myofascial develops knots, it will pull at one or both ends of a muscle, at its origin and/or insertion. This will cause pain at the hip, knee, Achilles tendon and feet, when referring to the lower extremities. You can also experience discomfort in your neck and upper back due to tightness within this connective tissue.
Think of knots in your myofascia as wrinkles in a dress shirt. To get rid of the wrinkles, you can’t stretch them out, you have to iron them out, and this is the strategy behind foam rolling and other types of myofascial release. Foam rollers come in a variety of models, but the three most common are white (least dense for rehab), blue (moderately dense), and black (most dense). I use a black roller every day and I recommend the same to everyone else. The following descriptions are for the primary areas of focus for myofascial maintenance and repair.
Hold each position 1 – 2 minutes for each side. If pain is felt, stop rolling and rest on the painful area for 20 - 30 seconds. The exercises can be performed 1 – 2 times daily.
Position yourself on your side lying on the foam roller. Bottom leg is raised slightly off the floor. Roll just below hip joint down the lateral thigh to the knee. This area should address most lateral knee and hip pain.
Begin positioned as shown with foot crossed to opposite knee. Roll on the posterior hip area. This will also help with sciatica.
Place hamstring on the roll with hips unsupported. Feet are crossed to increase leverage.
Body is positioned prone with quadriceps on the foam roller. Keep abdominals in a drawn-in position and keep gluteus tight to prevent low back compensation. Roll pelvic bone to knee. This area helps with patellar tendon pain.
Extend the thigh and place foam roll in the groin region with body prone on the floor. This will address medial knee pain.
Position yourself on the side with arm outstretched and foam roll placed in axillary area. Movement during this technique is minimal.
Cross arms to the opposite shoulder to clear the shoulder blades across the thoracic wall. Roll mid-back area on the foam roller.
In addition to these examples, you should also use the foam roller on your calves. Use the same technique as demonstrated for the hamstrings. You can intensify the effect of the roller on your calves by crossing your ankles. This should help with Achilles pain and plantar fasciitis in your feet.
-Dave Hopkins, M.S. ACSM-HFS, NSCA-CSCS
LECOM Medical Fitness & Wellness Center
5401 Peach Street Erie, PA 16509