To roll or not to roll is the question. Well, at least that is the question most people with muscle pains are asking. Foam rolling, also known as a self-myofascial release, is a practice that helps people relieve tension from the fascia. The fascia is the connective tissue layer that keeps your musculoskeletal system in order. Myofascia is the connective tissue that covers your muscles.
It is believed that, through foam rolling, stress in the muscle and surrounding connective tissue can be released, thus helping you achieve greater physical health. Here are a few questions and answers about foam rolling to get you started with the practice.
Why Should I Foam Roll?
Foam rolling is by no means a hard and fast practice, nor is there a compulsion that once you begin, you have to continue foam rolling for life.
Tension in the muscles is a physical phenomenon. Over time, bad posture, exertion, and strain can cause the myofascial tissue to thicken, resulting in cramps and aches. As a result, there is a reduced blood flow to the affected area. To compensate for the loss of mobility, the surrounding tendons work harder, causing them to wear out soon.
Through foam rolling, a pressure is applied directly to the affected fascial tissue. This helps to make the fibers stronger, increase their length, and improved blood flow through the massaging movement. Hence, foam rolling can solve the problem at its root.1
How Do I Foam Roll?
Begin by placing the restricted muscle on the foam roller. Reposition yourself such that the focus of the foam roller is maximal on the affected muscle. Start at one end and roll the roller with the required pressure along the length of the muscle.
The next step is the most important. While rolling, you will touch upon a point that is quite tender. Hold the roller in this position for at least 90 seconds, until you can feel the tenderness dissipate slightly. You can also choose to roll the foam roller in small strokes instead of holding it in position.2
What Should I Do Or Avoid Doing While Foam Rolling?
Foam rolling is never meant to cause you pain. If it is, you’re probably doing it wrong. It is recommended that you visit a practitioner or watch a few videos to get the hang of it before you try foam rolling, yourself.
Sometimes, it is quite possible that the pain you experience is not solely due to muscle issues but due to another underlying issue. Foam rolling must be used only when you know that the issue lies in the musculature. It is quite ineffective when the problem is something else. If you have a loss of coordination or balance issues, foam rolling is not recommended as it may cause a fall. Avoid joints and bony areas when foam rolling as it can hurt quite a bit.3
Always remember that with a self-practice, your comfort is of paramount importance. If foam rolling is making you uncomfortable, it is probably not for you.
What Are The Alternatives To Foam Rolling?
If you like foam rolling as such but need more targeted effects, a massage stick can help. It is also easier to use than a foam roller and can be used by people with balance issues.4 Muscle massage carried out by a therapist can also help relax sore muscles and prevent slow onset muscle fatigue after a particularly long day.5
Acupressure is another therapy that can help relieve chronic myofascial pains.6 Tok Sen is a Thai technique that can be used to relieve pains that have bothered you for a long period of time.
|↑1||Knopf, Karl. Foam Roller Workbook. Ulysses Press, 2011.|
|↑2||Itsines, Kayla. Foam Rolling Guide. The Bikini Body Training Company, 2015,|
|↑3||Knopf Karl. Foam Roller Workbook. Ulysses Press, 2011.|
|↑4||Ivey, Pat. Complete Conditioning for Football. Human Kinetics, 2012.|
|↑5||Hilbert, James E., G. A. Sforzo, and T. Swensen. “The effects of massage on delayed onset muscle soreness.” British Journal of Sports Medicine 37, no. 1 (2003): 72-75.|
|↑6||Simons, David G., Janet G. Travell, and Lois S. Simons. Travell & Simons’ myofascial pain and dysfunction: upper half of body. Vol. 1. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 1999.|