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Foam rolling – the home therapy that can relax your muscles and ease pain

Spending hours at our desks without standing up, hunched over mobile phones, poor posture and stress. These are things we have gotten so used to we don’t even notice them anymore. However, our bodies do, and they can’t handle everything we throw at them forever. Our lifestyle has changed so drastically in the past three or four decades. This has brought new challenges that our bodies are simply not prepared for from an evolutionary perspective.
By the time we reach 50, most of us experience severe back and muscle pain. Sadly it’s not uncommon for young people as early as their 20s or 30s to feel stiff and unable to move. Whether we like it or not, our modern lifestyles put a lot of pressure on our muscles and spinal cord. All this pressure requires more than a light jog or stretching session though they may give some relief. Don’t worry, you’re not in for surgery just yet! Foam rolling, or myofascial release, can be done by yourself at home to help you release pain and tightness. Here’s how:

What is foam rolling?

Foam rolling is similar to a deep tissue massage that releases muscle tightness caused by the fascia. This is a connective tissue between our muscles and ligaments. Normally, it is elastic and allows us to move and stretch freely, but when we do strenuous workouts, have poor posture or are inactive for long periods of time, the fascia tightens, causing stiffness and pain. By using a foam roller and applying gentle pressure on trigger points, you can release tightness and move freely again. Foam rollers are fantastic wellness items that you can use on almost all areas of the body, including the calves, quads, hamstrings, back, shoulders and thighs.

foam roller track leg person

Benefits

When done right, self myofascial release has multiple benefits, including:

  • It relieves muscle soreness after injury by improving the circulation
  • Releases tightness and lack of mobility caused by long periods of inactivity
  • Stretches the muscles, reducing the risk of injury

Foam rolling is recommended for athletes who experience muscle soreness and want to stay in top shape. This doesn’t discount regular people who aren’t as active maybe as they could be. It can be used in combination with physical rehab to speed up recovery. Equally you can combine it with your training to support an active lifestyle.

How to use a foam roller correctly

Foam rolling is great, but there are a few things to keep in mind before you get started. First of all, any source of pain should first be checked by a physician. They will tell you the source and give you the green light for using a foam roller. Most of the time, they approve of it wholeheartedly. There are situations when the pain/tightness is caused by a serious injury or underlying condition that requires another treatment.

Secondly, you need to choose the right type of roller depending on the tightness level in your muscles. If you start with a hard roller and you have very tight and tense muscles, the procedure will be painful, so it’s best to start with a soft one at first and then change it as you progress through the program. Keep in mind that you should roll very slowly and pay attention to what your body is telling you. As soon as you find a painful tight spot, hold on it for half a minute or until you feel the pressure going away. Don’t forget to breathe and relax your body while you roll. The next day, it is completely normal to feel a bit of pain, so wait until this pain is gone to roll again.

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