There is already a vast wealth of information about foam rolling on the internet, so our current series of guides are designed to focus specifically on using foam rolling to help correct patella maltracking. To start, we’ll look at a foam rolling exercise designed to loosen the outer quad (vastus lateralis). This is the area where tightness in the muscle is most likely to cause an imbalance in the patella motion, as noted in our explanation of patella maltracking. When you want to relieve knee pain, it’s vital to relieve the knots in your muscles, and this is an effective way to start:
Lie side-on to the floor, with the foam roller under your upper leg. Your body should form a straight line, legs outstretched, with your upper body supported by your arms. You can achieve maximum stability by resting one elbow and forearm flat on the floor (perpendicular – or rather at a right-angle to – your body), with the second hand pressed flat into the floor, lower down, for balance. You may like to rest your arm on a mat or towel for additional comfort.
It may take a little practice to learn the arm positions and keep the body in line, but you should master it quickly with regular foam rolling. Correct positioning and balance will then avoid erratic, ineffective movements, and allow to focus more clearly on rolling out the knots.
Finding a Knot
Keeping your body straight, move your outer leg up and down the roller by shuffling your arms. Knots will feel like a hard lump in the muscle. You will usually find a tight knot about halfway along the lateral quad. Be aware that when you roll it, the fibrous tissue that runs alongside the quad (the IT band) may also get pressed into the quad and cause some clicking.
Dealing with the knot
To loosen the knot, move the muscle back and forth over the lump and mash it. Keep doing this until the pain starts to subside, and you feel the lump decreasing.
When you first try the foam roller, it’s likely to cause a lot of pain. If it does, you can take some pressure off by removing the top leg, until you are comfortable applying more pressure. Endure what pain you can, however; painful as it is, the exercise will help free the knots, lengthen the muscle and relieve tightness.
Without rolling through the pain, the knots will remain, the tightness will persist and the knee will continue to track incorrectly. Start with whatever amount of weight and pressure you can endure, and gradually build yourself up until you can rest both legs against the foam roller. Do this regularly and you’ll be taking large strides towards making your strides pain free.