The foam roller can be an effective treatment method for many running injuries, but it should NOT be used for Ischial Bursitis. Using the foam roller can aggravate the condition by putting excess pressure on the Bursa. The foam roller may be effective for other injuries that Ischial Burisitis is often misdiagnosed as – such as Piriformis Syndrome and Gluteus Medius Syndrome – but it can worsen Ischial Bursitis.
Foam rollers are self help tools that are intended to allow the user to provide self massage to sore and tired muscles. Massage therapy is probably the oldest form of self directed healing and is found in every culture. Foam rolling allows the person to roll sore and tired muscles at their convenience and at a place of their choosing. The foam roller can provide gentle compression and massage to the area and help increase blood flow to the intended regions. Increasing circulation to the area can help provide the muscles with all of the good things found in blood that nourish our muscles. Some of these include oxygen, nutrients and ATP. Combined with a proper stretching routine a foam roller can be an important and powerful tool in helping a runner overcome a nagging injury, provide a great warm up prior to running or prevent future injuries from occurring.
However, there are conditions for which the foam roller IS NOT helpful and can aggravate the situation for the injured athlete. One example for when a foam roller is not appropriate is Ischial Bursitis. Bursa are fluid filled sacs that are intended to prevent friction between the tendon and bone. On occasion they can become swollen and cause intense pain in the area around their location. In the case of Ischial Bursitis the muscles around the area including the Gluteal muscles, Piriformis muscles and even the Hamstrings can become tight and painful in response to the Ischial Bursitis. These muscle spasms are secondary to the Ischial Bursitis condition which can be very confusing to the person suffering from the problem. While it may be appropriate to foam roll the muscles it IS NOT appropriate to foam roll the Ischial Bursa. The foam roller will cause compression to the Ischial Bursa and result in further pain and swelling.
It is also worth mentioning that the foam roller is called a “Roller”, not a “Compressor”. It is not unusual for me to see athletes lying on a foam roller causing pinpoint compression to an injured area. Excessive compression can cause decreased blood flow and deny the injured area the oxygen and nutrients it needs to repair. When using the foam roller picture in your “mind’s eye” rolling out lumpy dough. You would roll the roller back and forth to work out the lumps or knots instead of simply providing direct pressure on it. By providing gentle and continuous rolling to an area you will more effectively and comfortably help yourself in your goal of working out the knots in your sore and tired muscles.
If you would like help in resolving this condition the San Diego Running Institute recommends Dr. Victor Runco. Dr. Runco is a running injury specialist as well as a marathon runner. He has helped hundreds of runners and non-runners with painful hip conditions like Piriformis Syndrome, High Hamstring Tendonopathy and Ischial Bursitis. If you would like to make an appointment call (858) 268-8525