Deep Tissue Massage using Foam Roller Exercises for Hip Pain, Part 1

by Annie on August 23, 2010 · 10 comments

in Exercise & Injuries

foam roller Besides doing the hip exercises for my torn hip labrum, I also regularly do foam roller exercises at home.  As you can clearly see, my foam roller has seen better days.  If you have an injury you definitely want to learn some basic foam rolling exercises.  In this post I will discussion why deep tissue massage is a must for anyone with tight muscles or an injury, in particular for someone with a torn hip labrum like me, and how you can do deep tissue massage therapy at home using form roller exercises.

Foam rolling:  What is it and why you need it

My first chiropractor recommended that I get a deep tissue massage for the tight muscles along my back and hip several years ago.  After the first session, I was sold.  But I cannot afford the $120 price tag on a regularly basis.  I rather pay the co-pay for my current chiropractor who does tissue work on my neck from the whiplash damage and fumble around on my own with a foam roller to get rid of the scar tissue and tight spots on the rest of my body.

Even though I do my hip exercises faithfully, there are days when stretching and stretching are just not enough.  On those days, I rather spend time wiggling on the floor with my foam roller than spend time with my husband.

A foam roller is basically a high density foam roll.  You can find them in most physical therapy offices and even at the gym.  They are inexpensive and anyone can do the foam roller exercises at home to get rid of scar tissue or tight muscles.

Deep tissue massage therapy to get rid of scar tissue

When you cut yourself, the first thing your body does to start the healing process is put a scab over it.  The scab is formed by collagen and acts as a barrier to protect the body while it continues the healing process underneath.  Your body react exactly the same every time you are injured — whether from a cut, a broken bone, or from soft tissue damage.  Your body always throws collagen to the wound to start the repair process.

So what happens to the scab when your cut healed?  The scab falls off and you go about your merry way.  However, sometimes your body overreacts and throws too much collagen to the wounded area, particularly if it is a large area, and you end up with scar tissue.  Scar tissue might not be a problem in some areas of your body, but scar tissue on your muscles is a problem.

Unlike other injured areas, your muscles flex and contract all the time.  The collagen on your scar tissue does not.  So when you move your previously injured muscle, either you:

Re-injure the area again (hence you see some people always complaining about the same bum knee or back).  You can think of the injured muscle as the weakest chain in the link; it is the first spot to feel any stress.


You feel pain from the surrounding smooth muscles rubbing against the ridges of scar tissue.

This scar tissue article can explain better than I can about how scar tissue could cause you pain even after your body consider the injury healed.  The pain you feel when you do rehabilitation exercises are sometimes from scar tissues at the injured area.

Boatloads of scar tissue

During my car accident, I knew the precise moment when I tore my hip labrum.  When the other car hit us on the freeway and we went through the oleander bushes in the median to the south bound lanes, we were airborne for a few seconds.  My leg foot jerked forward, I felt one sharp jab on my hip, and then I did not think even notice it until days later because I was dealing with my other injuries.  Days later I notice the pain was not concentrated inside my hip joint, but in the surrounding muscles in the hip area and even on the back of my butt.

So even though I usually mention my torn hip labrum, I actually have a lot of scar tissues in the rounding hip area and the back of my butt.  This is why sometimes I feel no pain from my torn hip labrum until I start moving (it’s the scar tissues rubbing against the smooth muscles).  Remember how I mentioned that sometimes it is painful to do rehabilitation exercises?  If there is nothing else wrong with the injury it is usually the scar tissue that is causing the residual pain.

I wished I have iced my hip immediately after the accident.  If I have nipped the inflammation at the bud, I probably would not have as many problems with my hip injury now.  At the time I was more concern about my back and I neglected my hip.  The couple of times I brought it up with the doctor and physical therapist they kept dismissing the pain which made me put it in the back burner because I figured they know what they were talking about.  Prior to my car accident, my only interactions with the medical community were my annual exam and a visit to the nurse practitioner to renew my allergy medication.  I put too much faith on strangers because they were part of the medical community.

The only way to get rid of scar tissue is from deep tissue massage therapy.  I like to think of the deep tissue massage process like using fine sandpaper to hand rubbing the rough spots on a plank of wood before you stain it.  And if you ever done any woodworking, you know that hand rubbing takes a long time on a big project.  If you do not have the big bucks to pay for regular deep tissue massage, you can purchase a $20 foam roller and get some of the same benefits at home with foam roller exercises.

I am going to end Part 1 of this foam roller exercises post here.  Over a 1000 words is a lot of reading for one day.  Part 2 of foam rolling exercises includes pdfs of pictures and instructions for foam rolling at home.

Until next time and thanks for reading Small Steps to Health.

Ready to buy a foam roller?

I brought this foam roller kit with a foam roller exercise dvd for $20.  You might also want to consider purchasing this illustrated step by step foam roller workbook.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Sagan August 24, 2010 at 5:57 pm

Great information here – I have yet to try using a foam roller, but I’ve been hearing lots about their value.

I can’t remember, have you tried light therapy (using an acupuncture lacer) or a PMF blanket? We get really great results at the vet clinic I work at and I’ve heard that it works well for people too.


asithi August 24, 2010 at 8:16 pm

Sagan – I think a PMF blanket (used for animals) might be similar to e-stim used in PT. I have used e-stim on my lower back and the upper back/neck (from whiplash) and have good results from it. Both my chiropractor and the physical therapist said e-stim cannot be use on my torn hip labrum because the location of the damage is too close to my ovaries. I think that is the problem with using electrical therapies for this injury (too close to the reproductive organs). I want to maintain my fertility.

What I am doing is helping me manage the pain, but I think after my first pregnancy I am going back for a re-evaluation. I am keeping my fingers crossed that maybe the movement of the hip and pelvic bones during pregnancy might shift it into a more comfortable position. Everyone keeps telling me your hips are not the same after pregnancy, so there is some basis for my hope. :D

Thanks for the comment.


Diane Fit to the Finish August 31, 2010 at 2:38 pm

This is great information! I must be way behind because I hadn’t even heard of this. Sounds like a really effective solution.


asithi September 11, 2010 at 12:26 pm

@Diane – I did not heard about this until I start needing it. That is just human nature. Thanks for the comment.


Zahra Brown December 20, 2010 at 11:22 am

This sounds like something affordable that would be a nice addition to my ‘home gym’. It can hurt doing exercises on chairs and the floor, so the roller would be much more comfortable. I’m just a bit worried about how long the foam will last for.


asithi December 20, 2010 at 6:17 pm

@Zahra – just make sure that you purchase a foam roller that uses high density foam. Mine lasted about a 1.5 years and I use it almost every day. Thanks for the comment.


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