Do you have knee or shoulder pain for no apparent reason? Do your joints make grinding or clicking sounds when you move? Are you a fitness enthusiast, a runner, or casual exerciser? If you answered ‘Yes’ to any of the above questions, you should try foam rolling!
Why Should You Foam Roll?
Foam rolling is a technique used to relieve pain and prevent injury. It is basically an at-home deep tissue massage therapy that works to relax and stretch your muscles. Regularly performing a foam rolling routine will help correct postural imbalances, improve faulty movement patterns, take pressure off of joints, ease muscle soreness, and restore muscles to their natural length. This flexibility technique is just as important as stretching, as it will keep your body health and free of injury!
How It Works
Another term for foam rolling is Self Myofascial Release. SMR targets muscle knots that have formed as a result of strenuous or prolonged movement. These knots restrict the flow of nutrients and blood into that part of the muscle, which inhibits it from functioning properly. Applying pressure to these knots through SMR, will help to release them.
What Do Muscle Knots Have To Do With Joint Pain?
Think of muscle knots like knots in a string. The string started at just the right length, but tying knots in it made it too short for what it was originally intended for. Just like the string, muscles need to be a specific length in order to move the body properly. When they are too short, they start pulling on the joints they are attached to. This results in the misalignment of joints, which can lead to further issues down the road such as muscle strains and tears, arthritis, spinal disc issues, back problems and bad posture.
You can find a wide range of foam rollers in all kinds of shapes and sizes. The most common rollers are smooth cylinders, between 1’ and 3’ long. These are usually made with a softer material, which will result in a milder massage. Newer versions of foam rollers have a harder, ridged surface for a deeper massage. You can also use myofascial release balls for a stronger, more targeted form of therapy. These SMR balls are great for treating the gluteus muscles, calves, shoulders, arches of your feet, and other hard-to-get-to areas. There are specialized SMR tools as well, like The Stick or smaller versions of foam rollers like the Trigger Point Quadballer. Keep in mind that your local gym may also have some SMR tools available for you to try out!
By rolling on the SMR tools with your bodyweight, you push blood and nutrients back into the muscle knots and help them release and relax. Check out the video below, showing you how to use your foam roller:
Foam Rolling Guidelines
Start off by rolling for just a few minutes and spend extra time on the most painful spots. The first time might be quite unpleasant, but it will get better every time you do it. If you’ve ever had a deep tissue massage or a sports massage, you know that while you may experience discomfort during the massage, you will feel so much better afterward!
Give yourself a couple of days after your first session to assess for bruises and give the muscles time to recover. Some tenderness afterward is normal, but you should never feel pain once off the foam roller. You can foam roll prior to, during, or even after a workout. Foam rolling can take as little as a couple of minutes or as long as an hour or more! This greatly depends on your needs and the amount of muscles that need to be addressed.
Still Not Convinced You Need To Foam Roll?
Think of your body as a Ferrari that needs regular oil changes to maintain its great performance. Foam rolling is your body’s oil change. Daily activity is enough to create muscle knots that can throw your body off. Foam rolling is a very inexpensive way to keep injuries away!
Foam Rolling: The Best Kept Secret was contributed by Lucy Hendricks who is the COO and Co-Owner of HERO, a Personal Training Studio in Dobbs Ferry, NY. Lucy is a certified Personal Trainer and Group Exercise Instructor through NASM and AFAA. She has an A.S. in Nutrition and an A.A. in Psychology. She is also certified in Yoga, Kettlebells, FMS, ViPR and TRX. Lucy loves running races, spending time with her husband and their 9 adopted pets including a dog, cats and one fish.