You may have heard your colleagues or seen other gym attendees use a foam roller before. A foam roller is used for self massage. This relatively new trend exists as we cannot all afford a massage or athletic trainer regularly to work out areas of pain within our muscles. For this reason, foam rollers are popular in both an athletic and rehabilitation setting.
As we use our bodies on a daily basis, micro injuries can accumulate in the fascia (fascia is also known as connective tissues) of our body.
These micro injuries in the fascia can form into: ‘knots’ ‘ropes’ ‘adhesions’ and ‘scar’ tissue. Rest assured though, there are not actually any knots or ropes in the tissues themselves. Instead, there is pain and areas of dense tissue which may restrict movement. Therapists also call these ‘trigger points’ with increased tone (or muscle activity).
Let’s take a few steps back. What is fascia?
If you have ever taken off that somewhat tough, white layer which encases a piece of chicken breast or steak, you will have felt what fascia is. All our muscles are lined with fascia, and provide a smooth surface for the muscles to glide across each other during movement.
Overuse or trauma can cause tears in the fascia which lead to increased tone of the muscles, pain and discomfort.
Why should I use a foam roller then?
As mentioned earlier, a major side-effect of micro injuries to the fascia is increased tone. Increased tone in a muscle means that it is tense and unable to relax which causes tightness. Whether you are recovering from an injury, performing repetitive movements at work, or putting in hard bouts of training and/or competition, foam rolling can speed up healing and recovery.
How do I use a foam roller?
As with most forms of massage, we are not looking to break down tissue with foam rolling. The aim of foam rolling is to re-align tissue and to reduce muscle tone within the area. This is done by rolling gentle pressure along the muscles and fascia. Try to avoid rolling the lower back, over bones or joints.
What are some foam rolling exercises I can try at home?
It is always recommended to consult with your physician or physiotherapist for sharp pain, and to receive approval before starting foam rolling. As well, a physiotherapist can perform an assessment and prescribe the appropriate foam rolling exercises for you.