class=”firstHeading”>What is a Foam Roller?
Why should I make foam rolling an integral part of my home care routine?
Foam rollers are lightweight cylinders made of high or low density foam facilitate self massage and myo-fascial release that, upon use, boosts circulation and helps us to maintain healthy, flexible tissue. And succinctly put, healthy tissue means less chance of developing dysfunction. Foam rolling is a practical, effective way to support and enhance preventative chiropractic treatment. Because foam rolling increases circulation, it serves as a great pre-workout warm up, and, equally, a beneficial post-workout recovery aid. Whereas stretching before a workout can blunt our muscles’ ability to generate force, foam rolling brings a much needed surge of oxygen to targeted areas. One study found that participants who foam rolled were “less sore” after a “devastating” workout that included several sets of squats. Over time, the study projected, that same reduced feeling of fatigue would allow participants to extend their workout time and volume, leading to chronic performance enhancements.
A foam roller can help extend the benefits of chiropractic treatment, especially for those whose course of treatment includes Active Release Technique (ART) and/or deep tissue massage. Athletes in particular consistently turn to massage to keep their muscles supple, flexible and healthy, and at performance peak. Regular foam rolling helps all of us athletes and non-
athletes alike to achieve the benefits of massage without relying solely on a massage therapist. A foam roller will never replace a set of skilled hands, but it is an easy, simple way to supplement their work.
Foam rollers work over large areas and target most major muscle groups. Most commonly, you’ll see people rolling out their legs after a tough workout, reducing tension, and easing those knots in their quads, calves, and hamstrings. But foam rollers are equally effective for often neglected areas like the inner abductors (inner thighs), glutes, and piriformis (the small muscle located behind the glutes). For those who spend much of the day sitting down, foam rolling packs a double punch: It will bring blood flow back to the legs but, also target areas that tighten up from too much time in a chair, like the illiotibial (IT) band and the hip abductors.
Should foam rolling form part of your treatment routine for back pain, too? Absolutely. Your back moves with the help of several large groups of muscles; keeping the tissues healthy prevents those muscles from either pulling or putting undue pressure on the nerves and spine. Use a foam roller to ease tension in the thoracic (upper) spine area by placing it perpendicular to your back, and gently rock side to side as you roll slowly up and down the back. Your foam roller will also smooth out your lats, and can even help you get into your rhomboids, those tricky muscles that connect the thoracic spine to the shoulder blades.
Click here for some more helpful videos on how to use a foam roller.
Foam rolling is a form of self-myofascial release (SMR) that targets tense and overworked muscles. It is similar to myofascial release, a common technique in massage, otherwise known as deep-tissue massage. Licensed Massage Therapists use their hands, elbows or other tools to press directly on a tight muscle until it releases its tension. With the pressure created by your own body weight, you can use a foam roller on the back, hips, legs, arms, and other parts of the body, to release muscle knots. It can also be used to increase balance and core stability. Foam rollers differ in size, shape, foam type, and cost. By determining your specific uses for the foam roller, you can buy a foam roller that fits your needs. This article will tell you how to choose a foam roller.
- Try out various foam rollers at a sports supply store or local gym. Most people learn to do foam rolling through a class or a personal trainer. These classes introduce techniques that can help you make the most of your foam roller and give you exercises to use with your roller.
- Determine if you will use your foam roller primarily for tissue massage or if its dominant use will be for exercises like balance and core training. Although it is not round and only rolls slightly, a half-round foam roller can increase your balance when you stand on it. It is often used by physical therapists to enhance proprioception after injury to knees or ankles. Proprioception is your body’s sense of its parts in relation to each other.
- Half-round foam rollers are also a good choice for an elderly person or someone with little strength or muscle tone. When laid with the flat side down, the roller will not move easily out from under them. Simply laying on a half-round roller in the area of tight muscles can release tension. The user can also move back and forth slightly as they grow comfortable with the roller.
- Choose your firmness. A decision of firmness should be based on your experience-level with the foam roller. Most foam rollers are color coded according to firmness. White rollers are the softest, followed by blue or green rollers of medium density and black foam rollers, which are the firmest.
- Choose a white foam roller if you are just starting off with a foam roller or if you plan to use it for exercises. White foam rollers are often made of a piece of polyethylene foam and they are the least dense, so they will allow some movement between the muscles, bones and the roller. Foam rolling can be painful at the beginning because tight muscles are pushed upon with your full body weight. A white foam roller will produce less pressure and less pain.
- Choose a medium, lightly colored foam roller for advanced core-stabilization or a medium amount of massage pressure. These blue or green foam rollers are often made of closed cell polyethylene foam or EVA foam and they are common in Pilates classes.
- Choose a black foam roller if you are very experienced using a foam roller or desire hard pressure for self-massage. Although most black foam rollers are also made of polyethylene foam, they are closed cell and manufactured under high heat, making them smoother, denser and less porous.
- Decide how often you will use the foam roller. For heavy use, it is recommended that you use a denser, black foam roller or EVA foam roller because they are highly durable. White and colored foam rollers made of polyethylene foam can warp over time in humidity and with repeated use. If you desire a softer foam roller, be sure to choose a brand that guarantees it will not warp.
- Select a 12 inch (30 cm) round roller if you intend to transport your roller often.For example, you may want to bring it to a Pilates class and use it at home.
- Identify your budget. The cost of foam rollers depends upon the materials used.
- A 12 inch (30) white foam roller will likely be the least expensive, costing under $15 (10 euros, 9 pounds). White foam rollers cost less because of the lower density of the foam.
- A black foam roller of any size is considered a professional-grade roller and would likely cost around $30 (20 euros, 18 pounds).
- EVA foam rollers are becoming more popular. They are often green. They are moderately firm and offer a more comfortable surface that is warm to the touch. They are advertised as being more durable than polyethylene foam rollers but will likely cost up to $45 (31 euros, 27 dollars).
- Research your options in local fitness stores or on the Internet to find the best value for your budget. Buy your foam roller.
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