What are the contraindications to SMR on the foam roller? I have a client with extremely tight calves, but he has varicose veins. Is it still safe to foam roll because I know that varicose veins are a contraindication to sports massage? If this is the case, what alternative methods can I use to increase his gains when stretching his calves?
Thank you for a great question on SMR. Like massage, varicose veins are a contraindicator for the roller, and I wouldn't use the roller on your client’s claves. If your client has limited movement in their calves in movement (therefore, tight calves), what we should do is ask “why?” Through the science and research available now, we know that tightness is secondary to weakness. If this is the case in your client, maybe we should look further up the kinetic chain to see if there is any dysfunction or weakness. If your calves are limited in movement, there is a very big chance that the anterior hip complex (hip flexors, adductor complex, etc), because of their relationship with the calves, will also have poor mobility and stability. This will also have an effect on the thoraco-scapula complex, possibly creating similar problems.
What we should understand is, if we make a change at the thorax, it will have a direct effect on the ankle. The body is an INTEGRATED SYSTEM. There is no other system in the body (respiratory, lymphatic, adrenal, endocrine, etc) that works in isolation, so why would the neuromuscular system be any different? Acknowledging that, releasing the thorax with the roller and then mobilizing (using gravity, momentum, ground force and the body itself), the thorax and the hip complex will allow better movement and stabilization at all of these complexes as well as the ankle. The change may only be subtle; don't expect the body to change in extremes instantaneously, but if we continue to feed the body good information, then the changes will become greater everywhere and not just at the ankle.
There are a bunch of mobilizes now on the Exercise Library (search under Modality -> "Mobilizers"). Don't try to implement too many, just maybe a mobilizer for the hips first. If that is successful, then integrate some more. Maybe look at the thorax or the ankle complex. In my studio, the best results occur when getting the client to perform the movement in a very subtle (gentle) movement pattern first and then progressing. If we listen to the body, it will tell us how far to move and when to progress.
I hope this has been helpful. Every client is different, so don't get distressed if you feel you are not moving forward with your client’s progress. Maybe step back, look at the body’s movement as a whole, listen to what the body is trying to tell you and then learn from what it has shown you. If we follow that philosophy, we will only get better as trainers.