Foam rollers have become the newest simple tool you can use for stretching and conditioning muscles. They are inexpensive, durable, and easy to use.
The way they work is through self-myofascial release: the pressure experienced by applying your body weight to a muscle group while moving over a roller eases restriction of the connective tissue (fascia) that lives between your skin and your muscles, bones, tendons, and cartilage.
Doing this yourself is like a massage therapist doing something similar with her/his hands. You can moderate the amount of pressure that you put on the area of the body but make no mistake–it hurts.
Foam Rollers are Potent Tools for Self-Therapy.
Used in conjunction with vigorous exercise, foam rollers are an effective stretching aid that can result in becoming less sore after a workout. They can also help increase range of motion in your joints in a non-intrusive way. And more importantly, they help reduce muscle knots, which can lead to injuries if not taken care of early on.
In addition, foam rollers can be used as a warm-up before working out to lessen the chance of injury. They help loosen muscles and fascia by alleviating stiffness of these tissues through manual pressure.
Technique is Important–Don’t Rush it!
Not only won’t you get the full benefit and fully stretch but you can hurt yourself. Spend the time to roll slowly and smoothly; you can pause on a particular spot that feels sore or tight. The slower you go, the better.
Here are a few foam rolling moves that will help you get the most from it:
1. Gluteal Muscles (“Glutes”)
Sit on the roller and cross your left leg over your right. Lean slightly to the left, so the pressure of the roller hits the meaty part of your butt (gluteus maximus), and roll forward and back. Do this several times for thirty seconds up to two minutes (depending on your experience and comfort level), then switch legs.
2. Iliotibial (“IT”) Band
Balance on your side with the help of your arm and opposite leg, and roll from about two inches below the hip to the knee. To increase the pressure, stack your legs. Do this slowly several times, then switch legs.
3. Quadriceps (“Quads”)
Lie face down with the roller starting under your hips and crawl forward and backward with your arms to move (slowly!) from hip to knee.
Make sure that you drink water before and after stretching; when fascia is stretched, toxins are released and you want to purge them from your body.
No replacement for Hands-on Healing
No tool works as well as human touch. A certified massage therapist can ascertain the sources of restriction and pain and work in a holistic way to release fascia and muscular trigger points. Many healthcare plans include reimbursement for massage therapy and it is definitely worth the time to permanently relieve pain and gain mobility.
For now, if you’re looking for an inexpensive and effective way to take care of your pain, start by using a foam roller.