Foam Rollers - new in our core stretch & flex class

Posted: 09 May 2013

A large roll of foam about half of an adult's height looks seemingly useless until it's rolled down your IT band, piriformis, hamstrings, calves, and upper back. Though the foam roller may cause pain on sore spots and knots throughout your body, the pain is only temporary and will ultimately alleviate stress and tension in overworked, sore muscles. The foam roller is used in a type of self-massage called self-myofascial release, or SMR for short. It is highly effective for treating injured patients during physical therapy.

DEFINITION

A foam roller is a long cylinder made of foam that is usually three feet long and six inches in diameter. Your body weight is used to provide pressure when lying or sitting on the foam roller. Rolling your muscles along the foam roller help break up adhesions that form on your muscles, much like a massage would typically do. The foam roller, which is ideal for using on hard to reach areas, provides more relief and benefits than simple static stretching might.

HOW TO USE IT

The roller can provide relief to the iliotibial band, or IT band, which is commonly injured or overworked in athletes. It can also offer relief to other muscles that have knots or muscle tightness. To use the roller, start by lying on your side with your body perpendicular to the roller while supporting yourself on your elbow. Roll from the top of your hip down the lateral side of your thigh toward your knee. As you roll, search for areas of tension, which may also feel painful. You can either pause on those areas to help release some of the tension, or apply long, sweeping strokes up and down the muscle you're focusing on. Though the foam roller can be used on any muscle, depending on where your soreness is located, never use the roller to put pressure on bones.

PHYSICAL THERAPY AND FOAM ROLLING

While any average person or athlete could benefit from the foam roller, physical therapy patients can help further their progress by practicing SMR several times per week. A foam roller helps break down scar tissue, which can often be the cause of an injury. When your muscles are torn, as a result of working out, your muscle fibers shorten and scar tissue is formed, thus causing soft tissue injury. Continually injuring your scar tissue can lead to chronic pain and more serious injury. Foam rolling can slowly alleviate the pain from an injury as well as offer injury prevention for the future.

WHEN TO FOAM ROLL

Physical therapy patients will have a foam rolling program tailored to their injury that specifies how often they need to roll, which muscles they need to pay attention to, and when they should incorporate the practice. As a general rule of thumb, performbetter.com recommends rolling for five to 10 minutes. Rolling before a workout will help decrease muscle density and improve your warm up, yet rolling after a workout will help mitigate soreness. Foam rolling can be done every single day. For acute pain, "The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook" says up to 12 times per day is acceptable.

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