What is a Foam Roller?
The foam roller is made of hard celled foam rubber, and is available in different sizes and varying hardness. They are now available in a variety of different models but the traditional foam roller is more economical and is ‘’tried and tested’’
Why use a Foam Roller?
Using a foam roller is an affordable alternative to a massage; though not as effective as hands on mobilisation from a qualified therapist (we have Marianne at Thorpes), a foam roller is still very effective. Combined with the low cost and ease of accessibility, the foam roller is a very powerful tool.
Sport, exercise, work and the general demands of our life place significant demands on our bodies. Either metabolic bi-products associated with activity, disuse or prolonged postures can cause muscles and joints to stiffen up, often in a less than ideal position. The foam roller is an effective tool to stretch or ‘’release’’ certain muscles and even stretch or ‘’mobilise’’ some joints
How does the Foam Roller Work?
The superficial fascia is a soft connective tissue located just below the 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 myo-fascial system. For various reasons including disuse, weakness, not enough stretching, poor posture or injuries, the fascia and underlying muscle tissue can become stuck together. This is called an adhesion and it results in restricted muscle movement. It also causes pain, soreness and reduced flexibility or range of movement
Myofascial release is a technique in which the practitioner uses sustained pressure on the soft tissue whilst applying traction to the fascia. The technique results in the softening and lengthening (release) of the fascia and breaking down of adhesions between the skin, fascia, muscles and bones. Myofascial release has been shown to relieve various muscle and joint pains such as shin splints, patella-femoral joint pain (knee), ITB syndrome etc
How to use the Foam Roller
- Place the foam roller on or around the muscles that are tight or overactive. You can pretty much use it on any muscle
- Work from the proximal aspect of the body part (nearest to the centre of the body) then work the distal aspect of the body (away from the centre of the body), this targets the Golgi Tendon Organ, next work in between these two points (the belly of the muscle)
- Muscles are three dimensional, so roll up, down and across the muscle to find the tender points
- When you find a tender spot, hold onto that spot for 30-60 seconds or until the discomfort decreases by approximately 50-75%
- Make sure you breathe and relax when a tender spot is found
- Continue rolling the foam roller over the muscle to find other tender spots
- To apply more pressure on the lower body you can go to use a single leg or stack one leg on top of the other
- You can also take a more of a self-massage approach if there are no major tender spots. Use long, slow sweeping strokes on long muscles groups such as the calves, quadriceps, hamstrings and adductors
Assessment with the Foam Roller
Not only can you use the foam roller to relieve tension but you can also use it as a tool to assess the quality of your muscles and identify areas or potential areas of concern
You can roll different body areas and rate the discomfort on a scale of 1-10, make note of nay imbalances, the higher the rating of discomfort, the greater the need to use the roller on these areas. Please not that if there is extreme discomfort or large discrepancies between right and left sides then seek advice from a Physiotherapist
Areas to work on with a Foam Roller
As previously mentioned, you can pretty much use the roller on any muscle. Below is a list of my favourite areas to use it on:-
- Thoracic spine (middle of the back)
We have spent many years at Thorpes Physiotherapy sourcing the ideal foam rollers and do sell them at the clinic for £20
I hope you have found this interesting, if you would like more information about how to use a foam roller, when to use it and how often to use it then contact our clinic for a consultation on 01276 37670 or click on the icon below to book online.
Alternatively, if you would prefer a FREE telephone consultations with one of our Physiotherapists then click here