A Beginners Guide to Foam Rolling

Foam rolling is a great technique for self deep massage and stretching. It is important to know what exactly you are doing while foam rolling, to understand how and why it works so well. Essentially, what you’re doing is working out tissue called fascia. Fascia is the protective later of connective tissue that surrounds your muscles, joints, and bones to stabilize your entire body. When your body is balanced, the fascia is able to stretch and move along with your body. However, as we all have come to realize at some point or another – we can lose that balance pretty quickly. Whether it be stress, poor posture, or even working out fascia will become tight, restricting movement and often causing pain. 
Stretching alone is great for your entire body, but sometimes it isn’t able to relieve that deep myofascial pain. This is where foam rollers come in so handy! There are so many benefits of foam rolling, including relief for tight muscles, aid in muscle recovery post exercise/inactivity, improve range of motion by lengthening muscles and preventing injury. And the best part is, you don’t have to leave your house to do it! That being said, there are two ways you can use a foam roller – for stretching and for self myofasical release/massage. 
Two of our most common stretches with foam rollers: 
Thoracic Extension: Start by positioning the foam roller under your shoulder blades with your arms behind your head, knees bent and feet flat. Gently lean back over the roller to extend your spine. Do this at multiple sections of your back from the top to the bottom of your shoulder blades. *Do not push too hard over lower ribs or go into curvature of low back with the roller.
Pec Stretch: Laying on a foam roller, keep your knees bent and arms to the side. The stretch can be lowered/intensified by positioning your arms at different angles. 
Two of our most common myofacsial massage techniques: 
Piriformis: Start by sitting on the foam roller and put one foot on the opposite knee (as pictured). Lean into one side of your glutes and roll back and forth. Your leg on the floor will control how much pressure is used. 
Iliotibial Tract (IT Band): Lay on your side with the roller just below your hip, placing your other over the other, and foot on the floor. Roll along your outer thigh. Again, your leg on the floor will control how much pressure is used. 
Below are a few things to remember while rolling: 
  • BREATHE!! Perhaps the most important – if your muscles aren’t getting the oxygen they need, they will not be able to release. 
  • Roll very SLOWLY. When you come across a trigger point, or painful spot, focus on that smaller area until it releases before moving on. You should be able to slowly feel the tension release. 
  • Relax as much as you can. If you’re tensing the muscle you’re trying to work out, it won’t be able to release. 
  • Drink WATER – it’s important to keep your muscles hydrated and mobile. Rule of thumb is 1/2 of your body weight= how many oz of water that we should be drinking a day. 
  • Stretch afterward. Reason simply being, you need to keep the muscle mobile and lengthened. 
Now, anyone that has used a foam roller already knows that it doesn’t always feel the most pleasant. If an area is too tender to roll, apply less pressure or roll the surrounding muscles and slowly work your way to the tender muscle group. 
As always, if you have any questions or concerns please don’t hesitate to contact a trained professional prior to rolling. What are your favorite foam roller stretches/massage techniques? Let us know in the comments below! 
Photos credit to: RunnersWorld.com 
Alyssa Hart 
Clinic Coordinator Assistant 
Physical Therapy Consultants 

February 23rd, 2017

Posted In: General

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