In our goal of moving better and dealing with the aches and pains that come from work, training and life in general I often hear that X worked when I tried it but the problem came back. This something that often is said regarding soft tissue work you can do at home such as stretching, foam rolling/ other self MFR techniques or even work carried out by a manual therapist/physiotherapist. Often what is forgotten is that these techniques or treatments are designed to help improve range of movement and tissue quality but you need to “own” this newly created movement by using it and often by re-patterning our movement. If you simply treat the area then go back to using it just as you did before then it’s hardly surprising that the relief was only temporary.
If we take the anterior hip as an example where stiffness/poor flexibility is a result of a number of issues such as sitting for extended periods and poor core strength simply regularly stretching the hip flexor area will not solve the issue. As soon as you stop mobilising the area it will start to feel stiff again as you aren’t addressing the real issue which is likely to be your inability to do at least one of the following; stabilise the hip, the pelvis, or lumbar spine. Rather than stabilising the hip within the acetabulum using psoas and glute max it’s quite common to substitute with rectus femoris and the hamstrings. This is a mechanically inefficient means of doing this given that rec fem and the hamstrings attached some distance away from the hip at the knee whilst psoas and glute max attach just below the hip thus providing much greater control of the movement. This substitution allows for forward movement of the hip and therefore hip pain.
To help correct this we want to improve the tissue quality, MFR (yourself or from a therapist) and stretching (all types used where appropriate), and improve your movement control through exercise. When then need to move from the MFR and movement control work into using normal movement patterns such as squatting, deadlifting and pressing through the range that you can control. These are separate parts in a sequence but aspects that should be done at the same time. That is to say you might move from MFR to movement control to movement patterns ( read exercise here) but within the same session and not as separate entities that you would progress through over a period of weeks. You can do the MFR and movement control and other mobility work as part of a warm up before any exercise and also use it at home.
So as we used the hip as an example here are some useful links to some self MFR, mobility work and exercises that you might find useful.