First of all, let me give you the kudos you deserve for even using a foam roller to begin with. Most people think those things are giant toys that beg you to smack one of your kids in the back of the head with them. While they do make great weapons, the truth is, foam rollers have the ability to be a real life saver when properly used. I hope to give you some insight into how YOU can start getting the results you deserve by making a couple simple adjustments the next time you plop on top of that mystical tool we call the foam roller.
As they have become more popular in the past 10 years, foam rollers have popped up in more and more gyms across the country. At first they were only found in physical therapy and athletic training facilities, but due to their seemingly magical powers of healing, foam rollers have slowly creeped into the hands of more and more casual exercisers.
80% of Americans suffer from some form of back pain and a foam roller might just be the cure to what ails you. It’s not just a goofy fad, but rather a real solution when done properly.
They are typically used for one or both of two reasons:
The method used to fix both of these issues is very much the same as massage therapy. Pressure is applied to overactive and tight muscles with the surface of the foam roller just like a massage therapist would do with their hands or elbows. This constant application of pressure creates a feedback loop in the nervous system that relaxes the targeted muscle, relieving pain, and also allowing the muscle to be stretched for better flexibility. If done in the proper manner, this tool can seem like a gift from the heavens, but if you do it the wrong way, not only will you NOT get the results you desire, but you can actually make things worse. Grab a piece of paper and take some notes my friend because to squeeze out every last drop of value from the foam roller, you’re going to want to make sure to avoid these 3 common mistakes:
Yes this tool is shaped like a cylinder but that doesn’t mean you should be rolling back and forth on your back like you are a piece of dough. We aren’t making biscuits here people! The cylindrical shape is meant to help you easily target the knots you have in those overactive muscles. Roll around just long enough to find a tender spot and then SIT PERFECTLY STILL for no less than 30 seconds. The constant tension of maintaining pressure in one place is the key to relaxing those knotted up muscles and relieving the pain in your neck that you have been tolerating for far too long. No, I’m not talking about your kids.
As I said above, once you locate the tightened area on your muscles, you’ll need to hold the pressure in one place for a minimum of 30 seconds. Most people don’t hold in place long enough to reap the benefits of the activity and in fact, the constant movement that is typical actually causes more harm than it helps. Slow down, take your time and relax a little. I know it is a little uncomfortable, but if you just hang out a little longer on that pesky knot, you’ll find it starts to melt away like butter in summer. Ahh…doesn’t that feel better?
Self myofascial release, which is the fancy terminology used to describe using a foam roller, is only half of the equation if you are truly looking to get the most out of your pain management and/or flexibility program. The time spent on the roller helps the muscles to relax, but we still have to stretch them out to reap the maximum results. Add in an appropriate static stretch for the target muscle for at least 60 seconds right after you have finished on the roller and in no time flat, you will see what all of the commotion is about. To learn more about myofascial release check out these videos on foam rolling and mobility exercises from our buddies over at ACUMOBILITY.