Archive for August, 2009
At the end of a recent appointment, a patient asked, “Do you give everyone a roller?’ “Yes, it should be everybody’s new best friend,” my answer. Since then, I’ve been trying to think of an instance when I wouldn’t prescribe exercises on the roller–and I couldn’t come up with a single one. Maybe it’s because I was a pilates instructor before I was a chiropractor so I got used to teaching exercises? Or maybe it’s because there is absolutely nothing I can find better for reversing common postural issues, releasing tight muscles, strengthening the core, and/or challenging balance? It’s an all-in-one tool for everyone!
I was first introduced to the roller when I worked as a pilates instructor as the Center for Sportsmedicine in Walnut Creek. I remember one of the elderly patients there who was extremely rounded through her upper back. We used towels and pads to fill up the space between the roller and her head so she could safely lie on the roller. One day, she was able to lie down without any props–she was in perfect alignment! It was as though she had lost the extreme curvature that was the source of so much pain. Of course, it was a transient change–but to see it for even a moment was magnificent. From that point, I learned many more exercises for scoliosis and/or “bad backs.” The roller is a fantastic tool for treatment of postural inequities all by itself.
The second thing I learned on the roller is the most painful–massage. The roller can be used to “roll out” almost every part of your body. I used to teach an advanced pilates mat class, and I could clear the room out quickly or have half the class show up late depending on where I put these exercises. I’ve heard people say that it gets easier the more you do it. I don’t think so. I believe those people are cheating. If you go slow, find where the “knot” is, and then work into it by rotating and rolling over it, it will NEVER not hurt! (And, of course, the hurt is “so good.”) The roller is great for massaging out “tight” areas throughout your body, making stretching and strengthening more productive.
The other area the roller is great for is for abdominal and back work. The most effective of these exercises incorporates balance work as well. One of my favorite abdominal exercises to teach is a roll up from the roller. It requires so much more muscle coordination to roll up from lying down flat on the roller into a full sit-up. It’s fun to watch a class trying this exercise because invariably people fall off!
Ultimately, I think postural issues contribute to or exacerbate injury cycles. The roller can be an important tool for unraveling posture, pain, and weakness. I think the roller is a best friend we should all have!