Tight muscles or a stiff back got you down? Whether you’ve stepped up the intensity of your workout, been out dancing all night, signed up for a crazy obstacle course run or just woke up feeling tight you may want to get a little foam rolling in your life. How is this any better than stretching you ask? Stretching alone is not always enough to relieve sore muscles. Releasing tension and trigger points helps to restore proper, pain free movement. Still not convinced? Hold on, we’re about to go deep… literally.
Muscle fascia is a “sheet” of connective tissue that stabilizes and separates muscles and other organs. The function of muscle fascia is to reduce friction of muscular force. In doing so, fascia provides a supportive and movable wrapping for nerves and blood vessels as they pass through and between muscles. Faller, A.; Schuenke, M. (2004). The Human Body.
Overuse, injuries, and a lack of stretching can cause the fascia and muscle to stick together leading to adhesions, pain and limited range of motion.
Using a foam roller stretches muscles and tendons and breaks down adhesions, scar tissue, and trigger points. This technique is referred to as self-massage or self myofascial release (SMR) using your own body weight and small movements. Although uncomfortable and at times painful, foam rolling ultimately increases blood flow, circulation and range of motion. Caution: feelings of tranquility may follow a good SMR session.
Foam rollers have evolved over the years and now range from soft to extra firm. Depending on your tolerance level you can choose smooth, grids, nodules, and yes, even vibrating. Individuals now have more options other than simply just size and density. If you are a beginner at foam rolling or have extremely tight muscles you may want to begin with a soft roller. You may even want to consider a foam rolling class. They’ve gained much popularity for good reason at gyms all over the world.
This Is How We Roll
- Focus on areas of importance to you
- Apply pressure according to your pain threshold.
- Remember that you are looking for “hot spots”. When you roll over a spot that makes you want to jump away from the roller, stay put and breathe. Allow yourself to melt into the roller, rocking back and forth until the pain turns to pressure or you feel a release.
- Roll slowly. Turn on your favorite soothing song and stay on your chosen body part until the song is over.
Foam Roller Stretches
Our bodies are rarely at rest. Whether you are an athlete, a gym enthusiast, a dancer, a golfer, swimmer, dog walker, driver… you get my point. If you want your body to function at its best, you’ve got to take the time to give it what it needs: proper food, exercise, rest and TLC by way of foam rolling.
Foam rollers are inexpensive and with a bit of experimentation you can target just about any muscle group in need of a good myofascial release. They offer many of the same benefits as a sports massage without the big price tag. For smaller muscles you can achieve the same results using a tennis, golf or lacrosse ball. When is the best time to roll? Before your workouts, after your workout, or watching your favorite show.