Many of you may have heard of, or even possess, a foam roller, but have no idea what it is for or how to use it. Often called the poor man’s massage therapist, foam rollers are cylindrical in shape, used for self-massage, and come in varying lengths, diameters, and densities. They are used to decrease restrictions in your soft tissue, increase circulation, and decrease tenderness in trigger points. Trigger points are tight bands or knots within muscle tissue that can limit flexibility and strength.
Regular use of the roller, daily or several times per week, can help you improve athletic performance, as well as assist you in preventing injury by alerting you early on to potential problem areas. Areas of extreme tenderness lessen and often eventually disappear if the roller is consistently used.
The roller is placed on the floor, preferably on carpet or an exercise mat, and by lying on the roll, your body weight puts pressure on the body part touching the roll. That pressure is lessened by putting more weight on the other extremities not on the roll, and increased by putting less weight on other body parts. Precautions include not rolling on a joint or a bony prominence, or a bruise. It is recommended that you roll up and down no more than 10 times per body part, spending just a minute or two on each. Tenderness in a trigger point can be decreased by simply holding on that spot for 20-30 seconds until the tenderness lessens. Be careful not to overdo, as that can increase pain and soreness, and may cause bruising.
When should the foam roller be utilized? Many people prefer to use the roller as a warm-up prior to an athletic activity, especially if they are dealing with a current injury. Others prefer to roll after exercise, or even another time of day. I would recommend just starting to use it when you can fit it into your schedule, and then playing around with the timing until you figure out what works best for you.
Regular use of the roller for just 5-10minutes, daily or several times a week, may improve athletic performance, but maybe more importantly can assist in preventing injury by alerting you early on to potential problem areas. Areas of extreme tenderness will usually lessen and often eventually disappear if you use the roller consistently.
If you are interested, we have foam rollers available for purchase at Connect PT. Please feel free to stop by and take a look or ask questions. Subsequent posts will illustrate specific use of the foam roller on your legs. Until then, roll on!