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Foam Rolling Benefits and Pitfalls

Foam rolling is a technique for self-myofascial release.

Fascia is fibrous connective tissue, mostly collagen, that wraps around and connects organs, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Fascia enables body parts to move individually or as groups and needs to remain hydrated to function properly. While staying hydrated by drinking water helps, movement is vital for keeping fascia hydrated.

Inactivity causes fascial tissues to bind together, which causes loss of flexibility, leading to a limited range of motion. Extreme tightness in a muscle or those knots in your back can be the result of fascia binding together. Over time these muscle imbalances can become worse because they don’t heal on their own, leading to chronic pain and limited range of motion.

We have a tendency to blame this on aging, but there are things we can do, like foam rolling to improve fascia hydration.

Myofascial release addresses skeletal muscle immobility and pain by relaxing contracted muscles, improving blood and lymphatic circulation, and stimulating the stretch reflex in muscles.

Foam rolling is the application of pressure to release trigger points. The goal is to stretch and loosen the fascia so that it and other structures can move more freely.

Trigger points are sensitive points in the body, which can refer pain to other areas of the body. With foam rolling, pressure can be applied to a specific point to relieve pain elsewhere in the body.

Foam Rolling Benefits

Regular use of a foam roller offers numerous benefits. Many benefits are comparable to a deep tissue or sports massage. Pre and post-workout use will help prepare your muscles for the workout and help with post muscle recovery.

Foam rolling can decrease muscle and joint pain, increase circulation and improve mobility, balance, and gait for peak performance.

Benefits include:
-Prevention of injury and increased recovery time
-Breaking up of old scar tissue
-Improved mobility, flexibility, and coordination
-Removal of lactic acid to aid recovery
-Useful as a workout tool
-Improved posture and breathing
-Alleviation of chronic pain
-Increased body awareness
-Enhanced energy levels

Foam rolling prior to stretching can improve the muscle’s ability the lengthen.  You want to slowly roll the targeted area to find a tender spot. Hold on the tender spot for 30-60 seconds. Beginners should start at 30 seconds and work up. Once you become more familiar with foam rolling, you can do two sets per muscle group, holding for 30-60 seconds, releasing and rolling the same area again.

Don’t forget to maintain core stability to keep posture aligned. It may take some time before you get the hang of proper positioning.

Foam Rolling Pitfalls

Foam rolling offers a host of benefits; however, improper use can have painful or damaging effects.

Mistake # 1 – Rolling Directly Where You Feel Pain
When we feel pain, our first reaction is to massage the painful spot directly. However, for some areas of the body, this can cause issues. When you find a sensitive spot, move a few inches away and work a more localized region around areas that feel sore before using larger, sweeping motions.

Mistake # 2 – Rolling Too Fast
You need to give your brain time to signal your muscles to relax. While rolling quickly may feel great, you’re not really achieving the desired outcome. Instead use short, slow rolls over tender spots.

Mistake # 3 – Spending Too Much Time On Knots
It can be tempting to spend an extended amount of time working out a knot, however, sustained pressure can irritate the tissue. Don’t spend more than 60 seconds on a particular spot.

Mistake # 4 – Poor Posture
When you don’t pay attention to your form you may aggravate yourself and cause more harm. Try looking at your reflection while foam rolling to correct improper alignment.

Mistake # 5 – Placing Hands On Foam Roller
Putting your hands ON the foam roller when starting to roll out your back. NEVER put your hands ON the roller…it will roll! You sit on the floor with your hands behind you and your feet on the floor, think of doing a bridge exercise. The foam roller is between your hands and you butt. You LIFT your butt off the floor and you move over/on top of the foam roller.

So, this is a great introduction to foam rolling benefits and pitfalls.  I hope this has been a useful step in helping you to do your part in creating your best health possible.

Dr. Kalaba is a chiropractor in Tucson, AZ, practicing gentle chiropractic care and providing health tips to help you live the best rest of your life.

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