By Nunzio Signore (B.A. CPT, NASM, FMS, PES)
Beginning with this post, I will be providing a series on Arm Care for pitchers and overhead athletes. These write-ups provide the basis of our Pitcher’s Program, which cover various topics from every day care to strength and conditioning to warm-up routines to reviewing various potential injuries and ways to avoid them.
When you work with as many pitchers and other overhead athletes as we do, you hear the same complaints day in and day out. Things like “my shoulder hurts right here” or “my elbow hurts when I try to straighten my arm”. Much of this discomfort comes from residual stress associated with throwing (or swimming etc.) and can be avoided with the use of a foam roller or lacrosse ball.
What is Foam Rolling?
Foam rolling or self-myofascial release (or simply SMR) is a great way athletes can help alleviate soreness and pain from overuse and the best part about it is, it’s inexpensive!!
How Does it Work?
SMR stimulates a contraction in the muscle, triggering a reflex known as “autogenic inhibition”. In layman’s terms this is where the muscle will relax as a protective device. Basically, you can get many of the benefits of stretching without the lengthening of the muscle which may not always be the best thing for certain athletes (especially pitchers and swimmers whose muscles can be already too long from repetitive throwing and strokes). Foam rolling, however, will help break up the soft tissue adhesions and scar tissue in the area much like a massage but without the cost!
These improvements in muscle “tone” don’t happen overnight. So making it a part of your daily warm up or pre-throwing routine will produce valuable results. This is why it’s a staple of our Pitcher’s Strength and Conditioning program at RPP.
How Do You Do It?
You use your bodyweight to apply pressure to the targeted area. Roll slowly away from the body and stop and “bear down” on the most tender spots. When the pain diminishes by at least 50% roll the other areas. The more body weight you lay onto the roller the more pressure you’ll apply to the tissue. Please note – people with circulatory problems should not use foam rollers.
So having said all that, grab a foam roller (you can pick one up at your local sporting goods store or order from www.performbetter.com) and let’s get after it !!
1. Thoracolumbar Fascia:
Fold your arms across your chest and lie with the roller under your shoulder blades. Lift your glutes off the ground and roll down to the pelvis one side at a time.
Lie on your side with your arm overhead. The roller should be positioned halfway down your back and roll towards the armpit.
We like to use a cable machine for support but you can just place one side into the floor. Remember – Don’t roll on the elbow!!
4. Pec Major/Minor:
I use a lacrosse ball or baseball for this one as it is a bit harder to get to with a foam roller. Face a wall and place the ball on one side of the chest just underneath the clavicle (collarbone) and roll to the outside towards the same side arm applying pressure by leaning into the wall. Do not go all the way to the shoulder and biceps tendon.
5. Elbow Extensors:
I like to incorporate this stretch into our soft tissue work to help with tension in the elbow. Make sure to breathe and don’t over stretch.
Make sure to never roll around the area of the elbow, as the ulnar nerve is very exposed here. If you feel a “funny bone” feeling then make sure to get off of it.
Foam rolling (SMR) can really help carry you through a season in top form and is a great pre- and post- warmup on game days and bullpens. In the meantime, please feel free to inquire about our “Pitcher’s Strength and Conditioning Program” at RPP.
See ya’ in the gym.