Stretching Is Not Enough: A Guide to Foam Rolling

foam rolling ITB

You have likely seen foam rollers around more and more in gyms, fitness centres, Pilates and yoga studios as well as for sale on line. But what are they for?

Foam rollers offer many of the same benefits as a sports massage, without the cost.

The foam roller not only releases muscles and tendons but it also breaks down “knots”. By using your own body weight and a foam roller you can perform a self-massage or release, break up trigger points, and soothe tight areas while increasing blood flow and circulation to the soft tissues.

Stretching is very beneficial and cannot be neglected. But in the case of muscle knots, stretching alone is not enough. When stretching a muscle with knots, you are only stretching the healthy muscle tissue. The knot remains a knot. The best way to attack a troublesome tight spot is direct pressure. A well-trained massage therapist can effectively apply pressure to break up and relieve muscle knots. These knots are pesky. It typically takes several treatment sessions to fix a well-placed knot. To make matters worse, these sneaky knots are famous for recurring again and again when you are least expecting it.

The best way to eliminate and prevent muscle knots is the foam roller. The foam roller is a firm foam device that is 15-20 cm across and normally from 40-90cm long. There are different options available – some solid, some hollow, some softer, some firmer, some with ridges or grooves – really it depends on what feels the best for you.

Use the roller against the muscle knots with your own body weight to generate the direct pressure. Imagine using a rolling pin to roll out lumps in bread dough. A foam roller is a good alternative to repetitive trips to the massage therapist or physiotherapist if it gets worse.

Bottom line: The foam roller is an inexpensive, yet highly effective way to treat tight areas and by releasing them allow better movement. A few minutes before and after exercise each day can help keep you moving well for years to come.

Key Points for Specific Foam Roller Exercises

1. Roll back and forth across the painful or stiff area for 60-90 seconds. Slowly! 2. Spend extra time directly over the tight area or trigger points. 4. Avoid rolling over bony areas. 5. It is good to stretch the area following foam rolling.

Tips for use:

  1. Using a foam roller is simple, but working some areas may take a bit of practice and some body contortion.

  2. You start by finding a relatively open area with some floor space.

  3. Position your body with the area you want to work on top of the foam roller.

  4. Your body weight creates the pressure that massages and releases tight spots in the fascia and muscle.

  5. You control the pressure by applying more or less body weight on the foam roller and using your hands and feet to offset your weight as needed.

  6. Always try to keep good posture to reduce pressure on the neck shoulders and spine

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