Benefits of Using a Foam Roller

Back when I was a teenager when I was living with my Dad, I was playing football for my school team. As far as I can remember it was a cup game – and I wasn’t having the best of games. It was one of those typical English weather days, in-fact it was one of those typical NORTHERN English weathers. Wet, soggy, cold, dark and just all round grim and if you’ve ever played on school fields, you’ll know that the surface is never in the best of conditions – especially in winter!

Anyway, there was a certain point in this game, where the ball was played on to my right hand side, it was a lovely through ball. As I took one touch out with my right foot I entered the edge of the 18 yard box – all I had to do was beat the keeper. I brought my right foot backwards, balancing on my left and as I brought my laces forward just about to smash the ball into the corner of the net WHAM!!!! – I was taken out.

Now I was fastest person on that pitch so the guy who took me out was obviously the dude who was playing me onside (sorry to all technical on ya here!…bear with me!) so he had a lot less distance to cover than I did. As he slid in he took my standing leg right from underneath me. I fell straight on top of him – but that WASN’T where the damage was done. As I fell to the floor the guy who I original turned and beat moments before when the ball was played through (I still remember his name!) caught up and fell over my trailing legs and as he fell his knee slammed straight into my lower back.

For about 20 minutes I couldn’t move, then the pain subsided. However, I have always had a niggling pain in my lower back area since. Whenever I stand up for too long, whenever I play sport for too long, whenever I get tired I always have this niggling lower back pain.

Then about 3 months ago I decided to invest in a Foam Roller. I went and bought myself a pretty cheap one from Amazon and started using it. Now while my lower back pain does creep up and cause some pain at times, it doesn’t happen anywhere near as often. Combining the Foam Roller with some great back strengthening exercises I have been able to decrease the pain by an incredible amount.

Foam rollers are relatively new, but definitely worth the small investment.  Basically, foam rolling is a combination of massage and acupressure that helps to release sore muscles both before and after exercise.  Rather than pay for services of others to massage sore muscle groups or improve flexibility, people can now use foam rollers at home, at the gym, or anywhere, and the acupressure techniques are so simple that anyone can do it.

How to Use a Foam Roller

Foam rollers are generally about 36 inches long and can be made of either soft or hard foam.  With the roller on the ground, a person simply uses bodyweight to move their bodies along the roller one muscle group at a time, massaging the muscles and searching for tight knotted muscles that cause pain, stiffness, and inflexibility.  When tense, knotted muscles are found, it helps to hold that position for a moment or two; this helps by releasing the tightness and allowing the muscles to relax.  The sore knots of muscle are called trigger points.  Foam rolling is also a helpful way to stretch muscles to avoid further trigger points from popping up after a good workout.

Benefits of Foam Rolling

Foam rolling is beneficial to anyone training, conditioning, seeing a physical therapist, or in pain from tight muscles.  One of the most significant benefits is the lower cost of self-massage when compared to the price of a masseuse.  A foam roller can be purchased for as little as twenty dollars, while it is hard to find a massage therapist that charges only twenty dollars for a half an hour of his or her work.

But, there is more to foam rolling benefits than just price.  Many people do not have the money to hire a massage therapist, and so do not know the full benefits that massage can offer.  With self-massage using rollers, people are able to recover from activity more quickly, and sometimes stop problems that they normally experience.  Self-massage also helps people tolearn their own bodies, and their trigger points.  After rolling for a short time, people can learn how muscle problems affect them and take action to relieve the pain.

It also helps with agility, making it easier to move, bend, jump, kick, and make any fast movements.  When muscles are tight and sore, they want to protect themselves from injury, so they keep us from doing the things that we want to do, at times.  Foam rolling improves the blood flow to areas that have been knotted up, providing oxygen to those areas so that our bodies are able to repair and get stronger.

Foam Roller for Back

Our backs take a lot of abuse; foam rolling can make our backs work easier rather than tense up and stop us from enjoying, or even being able to do, a workout.  Use the roller vertically, where it follows your spine from top to bottom to roll from side to side and massage muscles around the spine, releasing tension.  To use it horizontally to benefit the upper and middle sections of your back, you can roll from your upper back to mid-back.  You can also move the roller to your lower back, rolling slowly from the lower back to middle back.

Lower back problems are often caused by tension in the hip flexors, the front part of your hips.  To relax them and release pressure from the hip flexors and lower back, lie on the foam roller as it is placed horizontally beneath you, resting your hip flexors over it.  This will apply pressure to the front, allowing the muscles here to relax, and lightly stretch the lower back at the same time.

Foam Roller for Legs

One of the great benefits of using a foam roller for legs is that it reduces pain and discomfort on the outer thighs and the knees.  When the outer thighs are tight, muscles are tighter and shorter, pulling on the outer part of the knee.  Foam rolling helps to lengthen the muscles, reducing pain and allowing a higher range of motion.  The hamstrings also get very tight; foam rolling the hamstrings muscles lessens pain in the back of knees and glute muscles.  As with all muscle groups, rolling brings oxygen to the legs and is a good warm-up, even before stretching.  Stretching before a workout can help to avoid injuries, so warming up before stretching can help even more benefit.

Foam rolling of the legs can be done for the upper or lower legs on the front, back, and sides, and is simple.  Using the arms to support your upper body weight, you place your body on the roller where you need relief and move your body back and forth, stopping for a moment in trigger points.

Foam Roller for Sciatica

Foam rollers also work to lessen pain from sciatica caused by tight muscles pulling on the lower back.  One effective way to work out knots in the glutes is to sit with one end of the roller under one side of your bottom, and roll back and forth, stopping as knots are found.  This can be painful at first, but the more it is done, the better the pain relief.  This method is natural, and safe when done correctly.

Conclusion

Like I mentioned above, if you have pain in certain areas of your body the foam roller won’t be the miracle you’re looking for. You can’t just expect it to banish all pain – but if you use it and combine it with strengthening exercises it will defiantly help – that I have no doubt about.

Foam rollers have many benefits, before and after workouts, and for people in need of help to relieve pain from muscle stiffness and tightness.  By bringing oxygen to the muscles, rollers help our bodies to relax and mend in a way that muscle relaxers and pain killers can’t do.  Foam rolling is pleasurable, like a massage, but a fraction of the cost.  For anyone looking to have a better workout, better performance, or just a better life in general, foam rollers are a good investment.

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