Sometimes the simplest tools are the most effective in their treatment of muscle relief.
We have to learn to use the right tools for the right job, you don’t want to use a bulldozer to plant a little backyard garden right?
A foam roller is a prime example of how a simple tool can provide so much relief once we know how to apply it. A good foam roller should be firm without being rock hard, it should have just the slightest give as you generate pressure with your own body weight. The foam roller is yet another good alternative to repetitive visits with your massage therapist. The body areas most suited to use the foam roller is your back and lower body, although with a little imagination and creativity you will be able to come up with your own variations on all parts of the body!
The foam roller is deceptively useful, able to stretch muscles and tendons while breaking down soft tissue adhesion’s and scar tissue. All these activities work to increase blood flow and circulation to the soft tissues, promoting healing and recovery.
Using the Foam Roller
Utilize the foam roller by using just your own body weight; move over the roller semi-rapidly a few times to get your muscles used to the sensation. A brisk roll a few times over each side of the outer leg (on your side), back of hamstrings and calf’s, and the front of your thighs in addition to a quick roll over your back should get your body sufficiently warmed up.
After warming up go slower over the roller, you will hit a few spots especially on your side between your hip and the knee that are really tight, hold it over these spots as long as you can! (in the beginning you may want to place your other foot on the ground to give you more stability and take some of the pressure off the leg you are working on) It will be a little painful but those are exactly the knots you are going after and the relief more than makes up for the pain. I like to play a little game and see how long I can stand it before moving farther along the leg, trick your mind into putting a different twist on the discomfort! Remember to move s – l – o – w – l – y over the foam roller so that you can really work on the muscles.
Side/IT band example:
You have shaken and stirred the toxins in your body so remember to drink lots of water to flush them out! Your body will loosen up and the whole process will become easier and even enjoyable with each subsequent use. I don’t recommend using it every day, or every other day I’d recommend between 2-3 times a week to keep your lower body nice and limber.
I would recommend one of two options when considering a purchase.
1. get a smaller length 6×24 foam roller should do the trick like this one:
2. get a bit larger one like a 6×36 foam roller and cut it in half to get two good sized travel sized ones!
ITBS (Iliotibial Band Syndrome)
The reason I started using the foam roller was when I had a rather harrowing experience with Iliotibial Band Syndrome while hiking in the Adirondacks in NY. Long story short, I hiked over 7 out of the total of 14 hours spent hiking that day in excruciating pain. The terrain in the Adirondacks is challenging to say the least and I was seriously thinking I had injured my knee for the rest of my life. I had mini delusions about awful things like surgery and wheelchairs, something I’m not eager to repeat anytime soon! It makes me cringe a little inside even now when I think about the experience and all I can say is the foam roller was a BIG part of my rehabilitation.
I didn’t even know what an Iliotibial Band was before that lovely trip but since then I make sure to use the foam roller at least twice a week!