Ever felt soreness or stiffness in your back after a long raid or session of soloQ? I know I have… and it is one of the greatest feelings to use a foam roller to perform “SELF-MYOFASCIAL RELEASE” – a fancy three word phase for self-massage techniques.

Today I’m going to help you understand a little more about what self myofascial release and “foam rolling” is and how we can use it to not only feel less stiff/sore after our gaming sessions but also to help with low back pain as a gamer.

But first…

LOW BACK PAIN IN GAMING:

Low back pain is the THIRD most common pain complaint among gamers.  While many of us are confused as to why we have back pain from gaming, it’s quite straight forward. 90% of the time it is the result of a muscle strain from sitting with poor posture.  This article is not meant to provide a deep description of how posture contributes to poor posture but all you need to understand it this:

Poor posture and generally sitting for prolonged periods causes either over utiliz

es or overstretches muscles of our back. Because of how we sit there are certain muscles we expect to get tight and stiff. This is where foam rolling comes in!

Btw – for those who want to understand a little more about low back pain in gaming, check out my detailed article about this. 😀 do not worry. I GOTCHU

Self Myofascial Release (Foam Rolling) in Gaming

Self Myofascial Release (SMR) is a form of manual therapy which targets our soft tissues through self “massage”. In normal speak that means it is a way for us to self-massage and provide relief. The foam roller is an awesome way to perform self myofascial release and has been shown in research to be helpful in increasing flexibility, reducing soreness associated with exercise (and overuse with muscles) along with some evidence showing it may help with recovery.

As a gamer – Foam rolling can be used to UNDO the stress of sitting for prolonged periods of time by improving the flexibility of the muscles tightening up and helping with recovery of any overused or strained muscles.

Foam Rolling for Gamers: What does it do? How does it work?

For the nerds out there who are interested in learning a little more about how and why Self Myofascial release (foam rolling) works, this section is for you. If you are just interested in the exercises, then skip to the next section!

As I mentioned earlier foam rolling has been shown to improve flexibility acutely, reduce muscles soreness, facilitate recovery and potentially improve balance. For us we are mostly concerned with restoring flexibility and facilitating recovery

Restoring Flexibility – Just as specific manual (massage) techniques are capable of relaxing muscles and improving the flexibility of certain soft tissues (muscles specifically in our case), the foam roller has been shown to achieve increases in flexibility in both the short-term and long-term. While there are many theories on why foam rolling works and it is still up to debate – a widely accepted mechanism is the ability of SMR techniques (foam roller) to provide relaxation to the muscles (which are often in a contracted state after overuse or strain).

The pressure of the foam roller against our muscles stimulate nerve signals to cause our muscles to relax, but also have the ability to release trigger points (bundled up muscle tissue often sensitive to touch)

BASICALLY IT MEANS SELF-MASSAGE HELPS US GAMERS RELAX MUSCLES SURROUDING OUR LOWER BACK AND PELVIS CONTRIBUTING TO OUR LOW BACK PAIN!

Facilitating Recovery – Another unique effect more recently studied is the effect of foam rolling on recovery. There are only a few studies which point toward this effect but it seems foam rolling has the potential to influence recovery physiology (electrolyte replacement & rehydration, reduce cortisol levels, improve parasympathetic nervous system activity).

To us that just means it may help relieve some of the discomfort we feel from sitting for too long more quickly

Cool huh? Let’s get to the exercises!!

Foam Rolling Exercises to reduce gaming low back pain

There are two primary sitting positions we assume – flexion and extension (lower back rounded and arched). While we should always attempt to sit in “neutral” (see my guide on posture for more on neutral and how to optimize your posture from head to toe), most of us assume one of these two positions by default. Choose the style of sitting you naturally assume and choose the exercises which correspond to the style below. In each of these positions, certain muscles have an increased risk of being overused or stiffening up.

These are going to be the muscles we will target with the foam rolling exercises in this article.

 KEEP IN MIND

You can pick and choose which exercises you perform below based on how you think you sit! The exercises below are categorized by either “flexed” or “extended.” You can benefit from performing all of them and it should only take 5-10 minutes!

Flexion

Extension

Hamstrings

Hip Flexor and Quadriceps

Lower Back Muscles & Fascia

Lower Back Muscles & Fascia

Glutes and Piriformis

ITB/TFL

I WANT ONE! Buying a Foam Roller

If you do not already have a foam roller here is my suggestion on what you can get. In the end, the decision on which foam roller you are getting should be based upon firmness and portability (in case you need to bring it with ya for a competition). For most of us – we just need one we can use in our rooms.  I’m all about saving money and getting the best bang for your buck

The most basic foam-roller on amazon does what we need it to. This is what I utilize the most both with my patients in Physical Therapy but also what I recommend to those I work with in esports. This one is dense enough to provide the amount of pressure we want we place our weight on the specific body parts but not so firm it becomes an aggressive massage. I have both the 12-inch and 18-inch along with a host of a bunch of other options. My favorite is the 12-inch just because of how easy it is to maneuver around.

The Bottom Line

  1. Low Back pain is the third most common complaint among gamers and is mostly caused by prolonged sitting
  2. Prolonged Sitting can cause stiffness and tightness in certain muscles based on how you sit (flexion/extension)
  3. Foam Rolling can improve flexibility and improve recovery in these muscles and help us reduce our low back pain

As I mentioned earlier – look out for my article and guide on management of low back pain in gaming… with a potential special guest appearance 😉 😉

Until next time, 

PLAY FOR LONGER, WITH LESS PAIN

Simple tips for the gaming community to prevent injuries, improve performance and live a healthy lifestyle. Join some of your favorite pros in the 1HP horde to learn how to live well to game well.

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