Whether you are an athlete with sore muscles, a construction worker with back pain, or an office manager with tight hips, you probably have been told to use a foam roller to alleviate your muscle pain or tightness. This antidote may have left you with more questions than answers, such as: “How can this possibly alleviate pain when it hurts so bad?”, “What the heck is this actually doing?” or “Isn’t there more that I should do besides this?”
All of these questions are valid and deserve clear answers. If you are going to lay on the ground and roll around, it only makes sense to understand why. Foam rolling is one of many self-myofascial release (SMR) techniques recommended to reduce pain, prevent injury and improve performance. (1)
According to the Denver, Colorado-based company RAD, SMR improves the gliding of structures including skin, fat, fascia and affects the nervous system through interaction with mechanoreceptors. (1) When these tissues can glide better, we can experience the following benefits:
• Increase blood flow and reduce inflammation
• Improve muscular range of motion
• Reduce muscle soreness
• Promote quicker recovery
• Get mentally prepared to move and perform
• Reduce arterial stiffness, which is conducive to cardiovascular well-being (1)
All good things, right? But for it to be effective, you need to know more. The key to foam rolling or SMR is to use the correct tool with the right amount of pressure.
Companies like RAD have created body-shaped tools and supporting education to enable consumers to apply this manual treatment to themselves effectively. They believe in a “less-is-more” technique that is quite simple.
Once you have your chosen tool, you apply the tool to your muscles with your hands or body weight. The key is to gradually apply pressure that enables your mind and body to relax into it. “No pain, no gain” does not apply here.
It is essential to realize that SMR alone is not enough. To achieve lasting results and alleviate sore muscles, reduce pain and improve muscle tightness, you need to discover the root cause of these conditions. Perhaps your training regime needs some tweaking, your glute muscles need some strength, or your hips need to move more. Undergoing a complete musculoskeletal evaluation by a trained physical therapist is your best bet to understanding the whole picture of what your body needs.
Ok, so is foam rolling or SMR worth it then?
Yes! SMR can optimize your strength training and stretching regimes. Think of it as a bonus to make the other things you do more effective. Alone, it has a minimal effect but combined with the proper active movement; it acts as icing on the cake.
Head to Radroller.com to shop for your favorite tools and learn how to use
them on various body parts. (This is an affiliate link, but I assure you that I
only recommend products that I genuinely believe in.)
Online Course. RAD Mobility 1: Foundations of Myofascial Release and Recovery. https://www.radroller.com/pages/mobilityeducation.