A foam roller is quite the handy tool to have on hand.  You will see people using it at the gym, and many others have them at home.  But what exactly does a foam roller do?

foam roller

Why you should be using a foam roller!

A foam roller is a personal tool that can be used to release tightened or dysfunctional myofascial tissue.  That may sound confusing, but this is the breakdown.  Your muscles have layers of connective tissue (think collagen and elastin) throughout and around them that helps hold everything together and allows movement at the same time.  A problem arises in this tissue when you become injured, either suddenly or insidiously (slowly over time) by trauma or muscle imbalance (from repetitive or one-sided activities such as sitting all day at the computer or golfing).  This problem can cause pain, decreased performance, decreased flexibility or further imbalance.

One of the best ways to combat this build up of (what we call) ‘scar tissue’ is myofascial tissue release.  This is a type of massage that will be prescribed for you by your Chiropractor or other health care practitioner.   Many massage therapists also practice this type of tissue release.  The purpose of this tissue work is to break up the excessive and improperly laid adhesions in the muscle so that new healthier and more functional tissue can form.  This is done over a series of treatments, as one treatment will not completely resolve the issue.  The great thing about myofascial release is that you can have it done by a professional, AND go home and continue the work yourself.

How do I know if I need myofascial release?  One of the easiest reasons that may indicate you should foam roll is muscle pain.  Using the foam roller for chronic muscle aches, post workout pain, and muscle strains will be beneficial.  If you sit at a computer or desk all day long, I’d also be willing to bet you could benefit.

So when do I get on the foam roller?  The best time to get on a foam roller is any time that is not BEFORE a workout.  Working on a muscle before a workout has the potential of inhibiting that muscle from being able to respond to rapid stretch.  Just like you do not want to do static stretching before a workout, using a foam roller can stop the muscle’s nervous system from working properly.  This means you are more susceptible to injury during your workout.  Most times people will foam roll after a workout, since their muscles are warm.  My personal favorite is to foam roll and then stretch afterwards!

What do I do on the foam roller?  Here I am on the foam roller.  Tada!  Below are some common muscles (or areas) that accumulate myofascial problems and how you position yourself on the foam roller.  Keep in mind that when you are on the foam roller, you will move your body so the muscle you are working on is moving perpendicularly to the roller.  Have fun foam rolling!

foam roller

foam roller

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Where do I get a foam roller?  The easiest and cheapest (from what I’ve found) way to get a foam roller is off Amazon.  Sometimes gyms will sell them, but they are usually the softer white ones and are $25.  I also recommend purchasing a 36 inch roller, as you will be able to fit MORE of your body onto it.  Foam rollers also come in full circle or half circle.  For these purposes I suggest a full circle.  What density foam roller is your personal preference.  If you CANNOT handle deep tissue massages, I would suggest this Foam Roller – SOFT.  If you can handle harder massages or prefer them, I would suggest this Foam Roller – FIRM (the more dense foam rollers are more costly).

When you begin using your foam roller, you may notice that the muscle(s) you rolled are sore.  This is normal.  This process can create some inflammation in between your muscle fibers, and you body will remove it just like after a hard workout.  And your muscles will feel better in the long run!  Enjoy your personal treatment!

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My love,

Dr. Kristin