If you know how to use a foam roller correctly, you can relieve muscle soreness, tighten your muscles, reduce inflammation, increase the range of motion in your joints, reduce the risk of injury, and more.
For anyone who works out regularly, knowing how to use a foam roller is a must. It only takes a few minutes, and the benefits you’ll feel and experience are more than worth the time.
Why Use a Foam Roller?
Foam rolling is a form of self-myofascial release (SMR). It’s a technique commonly used by chiropractors and physical therapists to aid muscle recovery and help patients recover from injuries quicker.
The word “myofascial” literally means “muscle fascia,” and “release” refers to the process of “releasing” tension in the fascia.
We all have a muscle fascia in our bodies. It’s a thin connective tissue that is wrapped around every muscle and is one continuous structure.
Athletes and people who exercise a lot benefit the most from using a foam roller as the fascia tends to become restricted and inflamed when overused.
This can lead to prolonged soreness, tight areas around the muscle, inflammation, and generally speaking, a lot of pain and discomfort.
If you’re experiencing myofascial pain, you shouldn’t wait until it’s so painful that you need to visit a chiropractor or physical therapist.
Using a foam roller as part of your workout routine, you can keep issues related to fascia trauma at bay. It’s also beneficial if you don’t work out, you may be experiencing pain due to inactivity, poor posture, or several other reasons.
How to Use a Foam Roller Correctly
First of all, it’s important to note that using a foam roller can be uncomfortable. It may have a foam exterior, but it’s not soft and spongy. You’re also going to need to press into your muscles to feel the benefit.
Secondly, the exact position and range of motion you use depends on the muscle groups you’re targeting.
With this in mind, here are the steps involved when using a foam roller:
- Start by laying on the roller to a position between the ground and the muscle group you want to target.
- Using your body weight and lightly apply pressure to start, slowly roll back and forth on top of the roller.
- If you can feel any trigger points (knots) or adhesions, spend a little more time working on those tender spots.
- You can easily apply more or less pressure using your body weight. It’s important to listen to your body. Expect a little pain and discomfort. It shouldn’t be unbearable though, stop if it’s too painful.
The exciting thing about using a foam roller is that there are no set rules. Everyone’s bodies and muscles react differently to rolling, so it’s a matter of finding out what works best for you.
Benefits of Using a Foam Roller
There are numerous benefits you’ll see and feel by using a foam roller regularly. The most notable benefits include:
Easing Muscle Pain and Soreness
The fascia around a muscle becomes tight and restricted with regular exercise. Rolling the muscle helps reduce that restriction and increase elasticity.
This eases the pain and soreness you feel after working out. You can also roll before a workout to increase blood flow into your muscle tissue and prevent soreness.
Relieve Back Pain
If you suffer from back pain, you may have tried various exercises and remedies without much success.
It can be challenging to pinpoint the exact cause of back pain. Studies have shown that some patients experience a reduction in back pain by using a foam roller.
It’s not something you should try without direction from a physician, however. You need to be careful when working on your back, so you don’t further aggravate the issue.
Increasing Your Range of Motion
Foam rolling increases blood flow and circulation to the soft tissues surrounding the muscle. Rolling enhances flexibility and increases the range of motion.
Whether you’ve always had a low range of motion or you’re recovering from an injury, rolling your muscles will help.
It’s a Great Way to Relax
A lot of people use foam rollers as a way to relax, somewhat like light exercise. It’s because it’s loosening tightness in your muscles, much like a massage, and it’s also in part because it feels relaxing.
It’s certainly a way to relax your sore muscles after a heavy workout. If you can destress mentally too, that’s a bonus.
Possible Complications with Using a Foam Roller
Generally speaking, foam rolling is considered safe. It’s something most people do by themselves, and you have control over how hard you target your muscles.
The main precautions are to avoid rolling over serious injuries, such as a muscle tear or a sprain. You should also roll over muscle groups, not small joints like your elbows, ankles, and knees.
If you have any concerns, you should always consult with a physical therapist or a chiropractor.
Is foam rolling right for you?
A common misconception is that foam rolling is only for athletes and people taking part in high-intensity workouts.
The fact is, almost anyone can benefit from using a foam roller. There is evidence to suggest that sitting for long periods, inactivity, and poor posture also contribute to stress on our fascia system.
So, if you work long hours sittingat a desk, you might benefit from learning how to use a foam roller just as much - or even more than someone working out twice a day.