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Foam rolling is nothing new. Athletes and dancers have been using a foam roller for years to work out kinks and help with muscle pain, and it’s just recently that foam rolling has begun to sweep the mainstream workout scene.
It seems like everyone is foam rolling these days, and for good reason. There are a lot of benefits associated with foam rolling, but there can also be some downsides. Examining both points of view can help you decide if foam rolling is how you want to alleviate sore muscles with a good stretch.
What is Foam Rolling?
Foam rolling (self-myofascial release) is simply a term for a good old self massage. It helps to release muscle tightness and work out knots. It’s used to apply pressure to a specific sore area and allows you to aid in your own muscle recovery. It helps to return your muscles to their normal function before or after a workout, helping them to be healthy, elastic, and ready to perform at their peak performance.
Benefits of Foam Rolling
Extremely beneficial to sore muscles and working out knots, foam rolling is also great for increasing blood circulation throughout your muscles, ligaments, and tendons. It helps to lengthen tight muscles such as hip flexors and ligaments that are difficult to properly stretch. This can help prevent injury and prevent other physical imbalances. Foam rolling can also be good for stretching tight back muscles. When used on the back muscles it helps to offer greater range of motion of the spinal column.
Can Foam Rolling Be Bad for You?
While there are many that support foam rolling for muscle pain there are ways that it could be harmful. If not used properly, a foam roller can make muscles feel worse and put you at risk for injury. To avoid injury and get the actual benefits foam rolling is supposed to provide, keep the following things in mind the next time you want to relieve sore muscles or get rid of those nasty little knots.
4 Things to Remember When Foam Rolling
- Go Slow
The slower you go, the more time your muscles will have to adapt to the different pressure they are experiencing. You’ll be able to feel the tender spots when you roll over them, so pay special attention to these areas by rolling slowly. Rolling too fast may feel good, but it won’t do anything to get at the root cause of your pain.
- Practice Good Posture
You may think your posture doesn’t have much to do with rolling out your muscles, but nothing could be further from the truth. Hips may sag or the spine may not be correctly supported. Maintaining good posture while using a foam roller is one of the biggest keys to preventing any further injury.
- Don’t Spend Too Much Time on One Area
While it’s obvious that spending time on a specific area is super beneficial for working out a knot, a lot of people have the tendency to spend too much time on one spot which concentrates all your body pressure in one area. Spending too much time in one area may further damage tissue and lead to swelling and bruising.
- Never Roll Your Lower Back
This is really important to keep in mind when rolling out the back. You never want to roll on your lower back. This can lead to severe pain in your spine. The reason for this is because the spine will loosen and the muscles around the spine will contract to help protect it. Rolling the upper back is fine because the spine is protected, but there is little spinal protection in your lower back. Seriously, just don’t do it.
The Bottom Line
While foam rolling isn’t necessarily dangerous, it should be done with some precaution. You don’t want to add to a pre-existing injury and if not done correctly, foam rolling could result in just that.
It is really important to make sure you’re using the foam roller correctly. You also don’t want to overuse a foam roller. They can tend to become a crutch and often get used whenever a muscle feels tight or sore. Don’t get in the habit of using a foam roller after every workout; just use them when it makes the most sense.
Foam rolling can be very beneficial, or it can potentially put you in a lot more pain. Use foam rolling wisely and you’ll experience the advantages, not the setbacks.
If you decide to start using foam roller, you have to be aware of the fact that quality matters. Based on our experience and research, the following foam roller will be a great starting point for you: