In the second in our series of exercises to use foam rolling to correct patella maltracking, we are focusing on the lower leg. After the outer quads, the lower leg muscles are the next most important area to address, because tightness in the lower legs can restrict your ankle movements, which can lead to a whole host of movement compensations. These movements, though you might not be aware of it now, are integral to a number of exercises (and everyday body movements) that will help you rebalance your knees and ultimately cure your knee pain. This rolling exercise, then, is a necessary building block for strong, pain free knees:
Choosing the right roller
The muscles in the lower leg are smaller and tighter than the outer quad, so they need a firmer roller than used for other exercises. In fact, you shouldn’t use a foam roller at all, but something much tougher like a PVC pipe. If you don’t have a PVC pipe, a rolling pin with a wide-enough diameter will do the trick.
Start in a sitting position with your legs lying across the roller. One should be placed relaxed across the other, stacking the weight. Rest the top part of the lower leg (the gastroscnemius muscle) on the roller, and place your hands flat against the floor, either side of your waist. Move your body using your hands, mashing the lower leg muscles from top to bottom(moving from the gastroscnemius to the soleus).
You do not have to raise yourself far from the floor; you only need to use the hands to move your hips and put you in a position to work on a new part of the lower leg. When you are in position, you can even remove your hands and rest your bum on the floor whilst rolling your lower leg over the roller. There’s no need to over-exert yourself lifting yourself up on your hands the whole time: the focus should be on your lower legs, and placing one leg on top of the other will provide adequate pressure to resolve the knots.
Finding a knot
For the most part, the toe should be pointing straight upwards, as it is in this position you’re likely to find the most common knots by rolling along the straight line of the lower leg. When you find a tight lump, continue to roll over it and mash it until it starts to fade. As you hunt for more knots, you can turn the toe inwards, or outwards, to really dig into the different areas of the muscle.
This exercise can be very painful to begin with, especially as we use a firmer roller. You can perform it with one leg on the roller in the offset, and when you become more comfortable with the movement stack the other leg on top. But remember, as with many of our exercises, you will have to endure some short pain to progress to pain-free knees in the long run.