If you don’t have to get through all the text, take away with this TL;DR:
- Foam rolling helps to increase mobility by breaking up excessive connective tissue on the muscles that cause tightness.
- Use a lacrosse or tennis ball for tighter spots.
- Look at the 2nd video to employ the technique that saved my inner thigh from sharp pain when stretching beyond 90 degrees.
- Start slow, breathe, and stay hydrated.
- Keywords: fascia, myofascial release, active release therapy
Do you ever feel like no matter how much you stretch for a certain area you don’t make any progress at all? That’s my relationship with my left inner thigh (adductor). A ton of old scar tissue built up over time in that whole area due to a grand jeté gone-too-far and lack of treatment post injury. I had given up on any stretches that utilizes the adductor of my left leg because I would feel sharp pain if I increase the stretch. This includes grand battement to the side, pancake/straddle (impossible to lean forward), side split if I open up the hip instead of squaring it, and pied dans la main—just to name a few.
I could’ve gone to see a sports medicine doctor or massage therapist but I’m a commitment phobe about doctors and such that I prefer to do my own research first. After reading a lot on myofascial release, trigger point therapy, and Active Release Therapy, I found some fantastics resources on techniques I can apply on my own to release the tension and tightness in the inner thigh that held me back from doing a lot of stretches.
The first video is a guide to identifying and massaging the muscles in the adductor. This was how I found out that my gracilis was extremely tender.
The second video specifically explains the technique that helps to increase the adductor range of motion for a deeper pancake/straddle/middle split. This is the holy grail technique that completely resolved all my adductor issue after a few sessions. Kit Laughlin has other helpful videos and books on flexibility as well that you can check out. He’s quite well known in the flexibility/stretching community.
A couple of things to know to help you understand how these methods work:
- Fascia is a thin protective layer of ‘stringy’ fibrous connective tissue encasing muscles and organs. The next time you cut up raw chicken, pay attention to the clear/white-ish film that attaches to the meat. That’s fascia!
- Fascia builds up when muscles experience trauma and excessive repetitive movements, which reduces mobility. This explains why I couldn’t increase my inner thigh flexibility no matter how I stretched. In fact, there was no way I could lean forward in a middle split with my legs spread at 90 degrees without feeling like I’m about to tear another muscle again (sharp pain is an indication).
- Excessive fascia can also cause adhesion between muscles. For example, the gracilis and hamstring are very close together thus oftentimes there could be excessive fascia adhering the two in certain areas when it’s overworked. The gracilis does a lot of the heavy work for straddle/pancake but it can’t stretch if it’s restricted by the adhesion to the hamstring. Kit Laughlin’s tips attacks this issue very well.
Foam rolling (self-myofascial release) is a very mild way to break up fascia buildup. For my adductor though, it was not enough because there was still a lot of buildup that a clunky foam roller couldn’t reach. Daily massage using Kit Laughlin’s method, foam rolling, plus using a combination of a rolling pin (I love getting creative) and a lacrosse to target deeper spots were the combination that proved to be the holy grail for me.
There is so much more on the topic of myofascial release, I recommend taking a look at it yourself. Better yet, seek a professional who’s trained in these techniques if your budgets allow multiple sessions.
Disclaimer: I’m not an expert. Warm up, stay hydrated, and attempt at your own risk.