What can foam rollers do for you?
Exercise is cumulatively great for your body, but it can have some hurtful short-term effects. Foam rollers are designed to supply relief and lessen the frequency and severity of workout pain by employing a principal known as self myofascial release. The term refers to the loosening of tightened fascia (the connective tissue around your muscles) via a self-administered rolling pressure. It’s also a method of stretching that improves the extensibility of soft tissue while eroding trigger points. Fans of foam rolling credit it with increasing healing circulation, improving your range of motion and breaking up scar tissue.
How do they work?
The back-and-forth motion of foam rolling works much like a masseur’s hands pressing down on a targeted muscle group, except now it’s the muscle group that’s pressing down on its source of relief. Ideally, you roll a targeted muscle group – upper arm, lower back, thigh, etc. – over the roller until you locate a tender area (AKA trigger point). Then you maintain rolling pressure on that area for 30-60 seconds, feeling the pain diminish.
More than a massage tool: Flaman Fitness expert Kathleen Trotter shows you how foam rollers can also improve your strength, posture, balance and sleep patterns.
Why so many different foam rollers?
Foam rollers are as diverse as their users and purposes. Newer users often prefer softer foam rollers with flatter surfaces, as they simulate gentle pressure of a masseur’s palm. Other users might opt for the intense, targeted, finger-like sensation of harder rollers with pronounced grid surfaces.(NOTE: you can soften a knobby roller’s impact by draping a blanket over it.)
Longer rollers usually serve broader body parts, while shorter ones serve narrower areas – although you may opt for a longer roller to prevent arms or legs from slipping off the ends. Most users find that a diameter of 5 or 6” provides the ideal elevation they want, but some prefer the deeper, more targeted massage of 3 or 4”.
Some “rollers” don’t even roll. They’re bisected lengthwise for leg and foot stretching and for massaging arches if you have plantar fasciitis.
So you just need the right roller, correct?
Not quite. Technique and timing are also important. Using the right positioning, you can employ a hand or foot to control the amount of pressure you exert on your roller. Resist any urge to go “extra deep,” as that can do more harm than good. So can waiting until you really hurt before you start rolling. A proper foam rolling “recovery” routine is a between-workouts preventative maintenance measure that works out trigger points, not a post-injury miracle cure.It’s not a race, either. Rolling too fast can negate deep tissue benefits, but going too slow limits that reinvigorating blood flow, so set a proper pace.Finally, don’t roll under non-muscle areas like nerves, kidneys or bones – particularly joints – unless you like counterproductive pain.
If you have further questions, Flaman’s foam roller experts have answers. They can help you find the foam roller and the right routine to work pain out of your exercise equation.