A cylindrical piece of foam can become one of your best friends!
WHAT IS A FOAM ROLLER?
While a foam roller has been used by Physiotherapists everywhere for years it is starting to appear in gyms and fitness studios around the world. Coming in different lengths and widths depending on individual use, foam rollers are used for self-massage (myofascial release) to release muscle tightness or trigger points.
Using your own body weight, foam rollers provide myofascial release by stretching and lengthening muscles and tendons, breaking up trigger points, releasing tight fascia and even breaking down scar tissue.
HOW THEY WORK
Superficial fascia is a layer of soft connective tissue found just below your skin. It wraps and connects the muscles, bones, nerves and blood vessels of the body. Together, muscle and fascia make up what is called the ‘myofascial system’.
Quite commonly, the fascia and underlying muscle tissue become stuck together. This could be due to a number of reasons including injury, disuse or most commonly not enough stretching! Tight fascia can cause pain, muscle soreness and reduced flexibility that can lead to greater injury if not addressed.
Myofasical release is a technique where Remedial Massage Therapists and Physiotherapists (good ones like ours!) use gentle, sustained pressure on the soft tissues while applying traction to the fascia. This results in softening and lengthening (release) of the fascia, breaking down scar tissue or adhesions between skin, muscles and bones. It has also been shown to relieve various muscle and joint pain such as IT band syndrome and shin splints whilst increasing joint mobility and muscle flexibility.
Foam rollers act as your very own therapist and are perfect for in between treatments. Bear in mind you may need deeper or more specific work done on a particular area that only a therapist can release. Once that work has been done, foam rollers are great to maintain that region thereafter.
With a bit of experimentation they can target just about any muscle group. They are also beneficial in lengthening muscles that are difficult to stretch and rolling out tight, knotted muscles to gain relief.
TIPS FOR USING THEM
1. Start off gentle and slow.
Areas like your IT bands are quite tender. Remember to take it easy and increase pressure over time.
2. Use your body weight to gauge pressure
By using your arms and legs you have the ability to put a much or as little pressure on the muscle as you like. Start light and deepen the stretch as your pain receptions ease into the roll. You can eventually use your full body weight to maximise the release.
3. Use YouTube or ask your Therapist to guide you through different positions and new routines.
Your Therapist will have suggestions on how to target your specific area of concern.
YouTube is another great tool for may exercise routines including foam rolling. There are countless videos on how to target certain areas so get searching!
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