You may have seen them at the Gym or heard one of our practitioners talk about them, but what are they, what do they do and should you get one?
A foam roller is a cylinder made of hard foam. They come in a range of lengths and densities depending on the area you are aiming to use them on.
Foam rollers use the technique of self-myofascial release to loosen tight muscles and trigger points in muscles. It can also be used around the rib cage to stretch and open up cartilage allowing your joints to self-mobilize.
When a foam roller is used, the pressure applied along the muscle helps to loosen the muscle and increase blood flow to the area, which aids in healing the muscle.
The foam roller is excellent in its ability to not only alleviate pain but also by helping muscles return to their normal lengths, increase circulation and decrease your chances of injury in both work and activity.
Fascia is the soft tissue portion of the connective tissue in the muscle that provides support and protection; it is like the glad wrap around muscles that connects all the muscles together. The fascia can become restricted due to overuse, trauma, and inactivity.
Trigger points are specific knots in muscles that can cause referred pain to other parts of the body that is connected to the muscle.
To use a foam roller properly, apply moderate pressure to a specific muscle or muscle group using the roller and your bodyweight. You should roll slowly, no more than 2 cm per second. When you find areas that are tight or painful, pause for several seconds and relax as much as possible. You should start to feel the muscle releasing, and after 5-30 seconds the discomfort or pain should lessen.
If an area is too painful to apply direct pressure, shift the roller and apply pressure on the surround area and gradually work to loosen the entire area. The goal is to restore healthy muscles – it is not a pain tolerance test.
Any mild pain that you do experience while using the foam roller, shouldn’t last after you use the roller and the muscle should feel much better after. If it doesn’t you need to consult your practitioner to make sure there are no other causes of the muscle tightness.
If you sit in the same position at work all day, what can happen is that your muscles begin to resize themselves to accommodate to these habitual, long term sitting sessions.
Common patterns that can occur due to this include:
Using a foam roller at the end of the day can help to combat these common patterns associated with our day-to-day lives.
A good basic exercise such as lying on top of the roller in both a horizontal and vertical position, creates extension in the spine and also opens up the shoulders.
You can use the roller for every part of your body. Here are some examples of different ways to use the roller. If you want more information or help with any of these movements ask one of your practitioners.
The take home message from this article, is that foam rollers are great tools to aid in keeping your body mobile and allowing your muscles to work in the correct way.
However as we have discussed in previous articles, your skeletal system is the primary structure that allows all other systems in the body, including the muscular system to work to their optimum. If there is an issue within the skeletal structure, especially involving the hips and pelvis, there is no amount of foam rolling that will completely remove any muscle tension.
It is best to consult your practitioner before starting any stretching/exercise regime such as foam rolling, to ensure there is no primary cause to your muscle tightness. Once this is corrected and you are using the Dynamic Therapy you will be able to achieve greater and longer-term results using the foam roller as an additional aid.