If you have ever walked down the fitness aisles of your favorite store or have taken a yoga class, you’ve probably seen these large cylinders that are mostly or entirely made out of foam. These cylinders are known as foam rollers and they have the ability to optimize your fitness or rehabilitation goals by increasing blood flow, relaxing tight and irritated muscles, and improve your flexibility when using the proper technique!
Just like any exercise, there is a proper technique for foam rolling to maximize the benefit of it. You can almost foam roll any part of your body, however for the example that I’ll talk about is for the quadricep muscle as it is one of the most commonly “rolled” areas.
1. Lay down on top of the roller with the roller perpendicular to the thigh above the knee
2. Slowly let your body roll down, so the roller will be moving closer to the hip.
3. Here’s the important part: once you roll onto a tender or sore spot you will stay right on top of it, and breathe. (It will be uncomfortable, however, the sustained pressure will cause the muscle tightness, or fascia, to “release” and you will notice that the pain and tightness will relax and go away.)
4. Continue rolling, going to go all the way up the muscle then go all the way back down again to check for any more of those tender spots and
5. you should be feeling great after repeating that process for 2-8 minutes!
Let’s get into the science behind all of this magic. The technique of providing moderate to heavy sustained pressure on those trigger points and allowing the muscle to relax is called myofascial release. Myofascial release is very common in the world of rehabilitation and can be performed by using a foam roller, a tennis or lacrosse ball, or other self-massage techniques. Foam rolling, as previously stated, can also help increase blood flow and reduce soreness after a hard workout, long run/walk or other strenuous activity. Think of the sore body part as a tube of toothpaste and the foam roller like your fingers trying to squeeze out the last bit of toothpaste (it’s pretty much the same logic)… in reality, you are trying to squeeze out the lactic acid that causes you to feel sore- as the lactic acid goes out, more blood rushes into the muscle.
Next time you feel tight or sore, try foam rolling away the pain! If you aren’t sure if foam rolling is right for you or you have questions about how to foam roll more effectively, we have wonderful rehabilitation professionals here at Allegheny Medical who are waiting and willing to help out and make you feel better! Come by or give us a call today! Let’s make like foam, and rollout!