At my health club, Northridge Health Performance Centre, we have a number of strange looking foam cylinders for our member to use. These relatively new fitness tools could make your life a lot easier as well. They are relatively inexpensive and can solve a number of issues for you.
First of all as you probably know, as we get older our muscles lose elasticity in the joints and connective tissue which leads us to develop more aches, pains and injuries. This is where a foam roller can help-at any stage of life.
What foam rolling actually does is release the miofacia of your muscles. When you apply direct pressure to muscles that are sore with a foam roller you break apart the adhesions (aka –knots). As you do this, more blood flow is brought into troubled body part, bringing both nutrients and oxygen to the affected areas. This will speed up the healing process.
Tips to make using a foam roller more effective
1. Target the muscles around the area of pain.
Avoid rolling directly on the source of pain as that will cause more inflammation. Instead, work on the muscles around the area. When you focus your roller around the area if pain, instead of directly on it you actually help the muscles relax and repair themselves.
2. Find the area of tension and take your time!
Your brain will take between 20-30 seconds to allow your muscle to relax and get the benefit from foam rolling. Find an area of pain/tension and then press the roller into this pressure point. If your pain was an 8/10 when you started, hold this pressure while you deepen your breathing. Hold this pressure till your pain level drops to about a 4/10 (called a sensation scale). Now, work down the muscle by rolling away a few inches from the original area of pain and repeat the 8/10 – 4/10 holding process. This will allow the tension to release.
3. For body maintenance try this twice a week
Take 10 minutes twice a week with a foam roller to release stress and tension in your muscles. At the same time you will be improving your posture and preventing injuries.
For low back and knee pain:
Most people at some point in their lives will experience back or knee pain. Rolling the muscles that support the back and knee can be really helpful and speed healing. Often back and knee pain can occur from from our hip stabilizers like the piriformis (the deep muscle in your glutes associated with painful sciatica), tight hip flexors – pretty well everybody has them, tight quad muscles, especially the rectus femoris, or the quadrates lumborum (QL)-a diamond shaped muscle in your back. By releasing these important muscles, you’ll feel huge relief of pain coming from your low back and knees.
To relax the piriformous start by laying on your side with the foam roller under the glutes side of your hip (at right angles to your body). Support yourself with your elbow. Using the sensitivity scale, find an area that feels like an 8/10 and follow the directions above. Now work down your hip flexors, hamstrings and abductors (outside of your hip) Important: Never foam roll your lower back directly as that will cause the muscles to tense and protect themselves in this fragile area.
Many of us hold stress in certain areas of the upper body and shoulders. Using a foam roller with the method in step number 2 can relieve many areas of tension. Take 2 or 3 minutes for yourself and breathe deeply throughout the process.
Lean out your muscles and improve your posture
Rolling your muscles out with a foam cylinder will lengthen the muscles and also your posture-a super bonus.
Warm up or cool down with a Foam roller
Before and after you do a run, or tough athletic class or event, spend a few minutes rolling your muscles. This will get blood flow, oxygen and nutrients to the muscles, enhancing your performance. Rolling after a strenuous workout will bring the blood flow and nutrients back to your depleted muscle fibers.
Imagine all of these benefits from a simple little piece of foam!