Using your foam roller the right way could improve not only your flexibility, but athletic recovery and relaxation. Utilise the foam roller in the right way with controlled movements, with a neutral spine and normal breathing. Read on to discover 5 ways your foam roller could be more effective.
1. Keep breathing
Breathing activates the sympathetic nervous system. Not breathing at a normal rate sends a message to your brain that there is a threat to your body. Your body reacts by increasing heart rate and blood pressure as well as causing muscles to tighten and constrict — the exact opposite of what we want to happen.
While rolling, breathe in for five seconds and out for five seconds approximately. By focusing on your exhalation, you activate the parasympathetic nervous that activates the body’s healing mechanism.
2. Rolling the IT band firmly but not too aggressively
The iliotibial band (ITB) is a fibrous tendon that runs up the outside of your thigh. Often it becomes inflamed after walking, running or hiking downhill. It contains many sensitive nerve structures and does not respond well to heavy, prolonged rolling.
The ITB reacts better to a few quick rolls, with body weight partially supported by your arms and other leg. The fleshy, muscular part of the ITB called the tensor fasciae latae (TFL, which runs up to the front of the hip) can often give you better results, along with rolling the quads, hamstrings and calf muscles.
3. Never roll your lower back
The body contains many joints, each of which has a specific job to do. The lower back is generally designed to be a strong core from which other body movements can take place. There is no need to roll the lower back, as true stiffness is rarely the problem. More commonly the hips and upper back are tight, which then leads to compression through the lumbar spine.
4. Neutral Spine
Foam rolling involves lots of different positions. Body awareness and good core stability are important to ensure you don’t injure yourself. In general, try and maintain a neutral spinal zone.
5. Controlled movements
Slow, focused rolling is better for big muscles like the quads, hamstring and calves. Pay attention to your body and if you come across any particularly tight areas you can hold the pressure there for up to 30 seconds, as the muscle slowly releases. If the muscle doesn’t release or you feel any unusual symptoms like pins and needles, it may mean you are compressing a nerve.
Please consult with your health care professional for further advice. If you are interested in purchasing a foam roller, please visit our shop for recommended products.
A good rider knows that they must work in unison with their horse. To create fluid movements it requires symmetry, balance, coordination and stability. This doesn’t come easy, and requires training on both parts as a poor rider can ruin a good horse.
At Acorn Health we see patients that are involved in a variety of equestrian activities, including carriage driving, showjumping, cross-country and dressage. In addition to this blog post, we have prepared a brief video to help you reduce the impact of back pain whilst riding (see below), but first please read our hints and tips!
Lower back pain is a common problem in horse riders, due to the static position we adopt when riding – especially in the untrained rider. These problems reveal themselves through dysfunction and altered movement in the hips, pelvis, and lower back from the result of poor core stability, lack of flexibility, and instability in the saddle. There are some simple steps to prevent this.
If you only have a few minutes, scroll down to the bottom to read our top tips to improve these problems.
Restriction in the movement of the hips is a common problem, and this can affect the pelvic movement and motion of the lower back. The pelvis moves in a complex, multidirectional way when riding, if one area is not moving enough, another area will be moving too much to counteract this. Good core stability is vital to allow and support these movements. Insufficient movement through the hips can cause stiffening of the lower back and buttocks so the upper body may become loose (causing head bobbing or bouncing shoulders), or the lower body may become unstable (leading to flapping legs). An example is seen in the video below.
If you feel out of balance in the saddle, this may be because you are tipping forward through the pelvis. This in turn causes your seat bones (the ones you sit on) to angle backwards. The result here is that the lower back hollows, and the hips are unable to move freely at this angle. When this happens your body will immediately attempt to compensate for this, usually through recruiting other muscles to stabilise the area- commonly, the inner thighs or hip flexors (the muscles in the front of your thighs) will become involved, and this can lead you susceptible to yet more muscle and joint strain.
The image in the video demonstrates tipping forward through the pelvis causing hollowing of the lower back. The correct position of the pelvis in the saddle, and rotating backwards through the pelvis causing flattening of the lower back and protruding stomach.
Importantly, these imbalances in the rider can also affect the way your horse is able to
move. Putting pressure on your horse’s back means that he will find it difficult to use his back and legs in the correct way. This impacts on your horses ability to swing their shoulders through the paces, and can cause them to have back pain too so over time, you will both perpetuate each other’s lower back issues.
Many riders find that their hamstrings (in the back of the thigh) and their quadriceps (in the front of the thigh) become shortened as a result of the position we adopt in the saddle. Ensure you muscles are functioning at their best by adopting a good stretching routine.
What are the most common postural faults in riders?
The “en avant” position. Leaning forward in the saddle and balancing the majority of the weight in the stirrups. This is most commonly seen in show jumpers and cross-country eveners. Riding too much in this position also means you will be unable to provide the correct aids to your horse, and are already out-of-balance in the saddle. The pectoral muscles in the front of the chest become tight and sore, further encouraging rounded shoulders. Due to this imbalance, should the horse spook, you may find yourself thrown forward on to his neck or coming off over his shoulder.
Riding too short or too long. Stirrup length should be measured and adjusted on a regular basis. Why? As you become more flexible, your body will change and as a result subtle changes will adapt the length of the muscle.
Tight hip flexors. Tension through the front of the thigh will automatically lead to tension in the lower back, causing weakening of the abdominal muscles. A common mistake is to adopt a position in the saddle similar to the position we adopt when using an office chair. When the hip is over-flexed, the lower back hollows as a result which is a key contributor to lower back pain.
Dropping the chin. Constantly dropping the chin to look at the horse causes strain of the muscles in the back of your neck, and weakening of those in the front. This in turn can lead to headaches, neck, and upper back pain. A rider should always be looking up and ahead, not down at the horse.
Top tips for reducing back pain in the saddle:
Stretch. Riders rely on their quadricep muscles to bear the weight of their body, and the calf muscles must work to keep the heels down in the saddle. This tends to lead to hamstrings becoming tight but weak, calves becoming long, and quadriceps shortening. Maintain suppleness and flexibility through your hips by stretching on a regular basis (not only before you get on the horse!)
Focus on your core stability. Yoga or pilates exercises will help teach you balance and coordination by encouraging your core muscles to work correctly, allowing you to maintain the correct posture in the saddle.
Ensure your saddle has been fitted correctly. A poorly fitting saddle can cause discomfort in the horse and affect its movement, often encouraging the horse to move asymmetrically to avoid pressure and pain from the saddle.
Commit to physical fitness. A lot of riders use riding as their only conditioning activity, but a well-rounded fitness programme (which includes core stability, stretching routines and cardiovascular exercises) will help improve your overall fitness and stamina, and reduce injury while riding.
The South Downs Marathon is this weekend. Thousands will be running, competing, having fun and raising money for charity all at the same time.
Whether you are an athlete, pro-runner or amateur there are some simple rules to stick by to prevent injury and pain after running all that way. The South Downs Marathon is notoriously tough, so here’s our tips to help you overcome from the challenge!
1. Water – If it’s hot outside, you’ll need to drink more than usual, which is a challenge when you’re trying to run as well. Please focus on hydration both pre- and post-race (being well hydrated will mean you recover more quickly too!) Don’t overlook the electrolytes you’ve lost through sweating. Rather than buy expensive, sugary energy drinks, simply add a few mmol of sodium (salt) or suitable electrolyte powde to your water. Tastes gross but does the trick!
2. Don’t forget to eat. It might be the last thing on your mind after you’ve just run a hefty race but it’s important to rep
lenish your body with lost nutrients and electrolytes after expending so much e
Replenishing stores of glycogen (what gives you your energy!) in the muscles and liver
Protein helps aid muscle repair
Restores fluid and electrolytes lost in sweat
Supporting the immune system in removing the lactic acid that can build up after strenuous activit
3. Kinesiotape is not only helpful when you’re out running to help support your joints and muscles, but it may also aid recovery from injuries by improving blood and lymphatic flow around the injured areas.
If you are reeling from any form of exercise this weekend and are in need of some assistance please contact the clinic on 01243 379693 or email email@example.com