You’ve probably seen a foam roller at the gym or a chiropractor’s office, but did you know they’re one of the most versatile and practical tools for preventing and relieving injuries? While foam rollers are most commonly used in the realm of sports (such as strength, conditioning, and other athletics), they’re one of the most beneficial and affordable tools you can own for relieving vast array of bodily ailments.
Foam rollers are overly simplistic in their design, and their names aren’t misleading. Foam rollers are typically 3 feet long cylinders made of — you guessed it! — foam. By utilizing your body weight, you can manipulate the roller and yourself into various positions to help stretch and massage your entire body. While this can be very important for athletes, it is also important for the average person. Think of how many people (maybe even yourself) that have chronic low-back pain, upper-back pain, neck or hip pain, or even sciatica. Many of these symptoms can be mitigated, if not completely relieved, by using a foam roller regularly. Foam rollers are unique because they help you manipulate fascia, the substance around your muscles that forms into knots. Fascia can be slightly manipulated through stretching, but other than receiving a massage, foam rollers and other similar devices are the only way to relieve fascial knots. It is these fascial knots that lead to the many pains we see so regularly; by working them out regularly, you’ll see a tremendous benefit in your body.
Preventing and relieving common injuries was one of the primary reasons foam rollers were invented and have become so widespread in the fitness world. For example, many athletes, especially runners, have injuries and pain in their IT band. By using a foam roller regularly, rolling on your side from your hip to your knee in this particular instance, you can help to relieve the fascial knots that develop. Sciatica is a common ailment that deals with compression in the sciatic nerve in the leg — performing similar motions on the foam roller can help to relieve this compression. Even if you don’t yet have injuries, frequently utilizing a foam roller will help stretch out fascial knots before they become and injury or painful.
Increasing your flexibility is a key benefit of using a foam roller, and is another component of why foam rollers will help to prevent many injuries and pain. Many of those common ailments (upper and lower back pain, neck and hip pain, etc.) are caused by lack of flexibility or tight muscles. For example, many cases of lower back pain are caused by having tight hamstrings or hip flexors — which can be caused from athletic training (such as running or strength training) or even from sitting or not moving for prolonged periods of time. Running your hamstrings along the roller and perching your hips on the roller so they are elevated will help relieve these common ailments. For upper back pain, you can lay on your back and place the roller behind your heart. Flexibility is a key component of overall health that is frequently overlooked — have a protocol that helps build and keep your flexibility is important for longevity.
Rolling helps you de-stress. Nearly all the benefits we know we get from receiving a massage we also receive from rolling frequently on a foam roller. When we get stressed, be it from a hard day at work, exercise, or from emotions, we tend to tense our muscles in key areas — the areas where we ‘hold our stress.’ Using a roller helps to relieve that tension before it becomes too painful or leads to an injury. Additionally, relieving any tension in your body feels wonderful! It’s a great way to get a natural high.
We will have a series of future articles and videos regarding specific stretching and movements to utilize on the foam roller, especially regarding specific ailments. For now, I’d suggest investing in a foam roller and experimenting with it to find what works best for your body. Foam rollers typically cost around $25, and the benefits you’ll receive are tremendous for so little! If you have access to a roller at the gym, use it every time you go. Your body will thank you!