Be Well: Therapeutic Foam Rollers

August 12, 2016

Therapeutic Foam Rollers

By Bentz P. Tozer, Jr., B.S., CPT

There are many products on the market today to help you stretch and soothe tired, sore muscles. In this article, we are going to focus on the foam roller.

A therapeutic foam roller assists in “myofascial release,” which is a technique that uses gentle pressure while applying traction at the same time to the fascia. Fascia is soft, connective tissue that is located just underneath the skin. It wraps around and connects the muscles, nerves, blood vessels and bones in the body. Sometimes, the fascia and underlying muscles can become tight or can even become stuck together, resulting in an adhesion, which can cause soreness, reduced flexibility and restricted movement. This can happen for a variety of reasons, including lack of stretching pre- or post-workout, muscle injury or muscle disuse. Using a foam roller can solve these issues as well as prevent them from recurring. It has been shown to relieve shin splints, break up knots or “trigger points” in the body and help increase blood flow and circulation in the soft tissue of the body.

So how does it work?

It is a simple concept but will take a little practice at first. By placing the roller under the body part you want to work on, you will use your body weight to put pressure on and massage the area by rolling back and forth. You control how much pressure by applying more or less of your weight on the foam roller. You can also try different positions to reach multiple areas of the body. Roll over the area slowly until you feel the muscle relax. If you have a particularly sore area or trigger point, you can also hold your position until you feel it soften. Be sure to keep the roller on the soft tissue, avoid rolling over the bones and the joints. Foam rolling is a form of sports massage, so it’s important to drink plenty of water after each session and wait a day or more before working the same area again.

Foam rollers come in many different sizes and vary in firmness. There are also some that are designed specifically to target trigger points in the body.  Speak with your doctor or a professional to determine the best one for you.


Be Well Tips

–  Get your physician’s approval prior to using a foam roller.

–  Focus on areas that are sore or have limited range of motion.

–  Keep your first few sessions short.

–  Drink plenty of water after each session.

–  Wait a day or two between sessions.