An Underutilized Tool in The Fight Against Joint and Muscle Pain

Some problems (e.g. muscle tightness, pain) proper stretching just can’t solve.

Enter the foam roller.

Once you start using a foam roller, you’ll feel the benefits immediately. It’s almost like driving a car right after releasing the parking brake; once you get rid of the resistance, you’ll wonder how you ever tolerated it in the first place.

Trigger points (or muscle knots) are sections of muscle tissue that have tightened and constricted, sending signals of pain to your brain. Your body develops muscle knots due to inactivity, previous injury, and improper movement. Tissue manipulation encourages blood circulation and quickens the healing process. Muscle knots reduce flexibility and range of movement, limiting your ability to perform everyday movements and raising the chances of injury.

If you don’t have access to a massage therapist on a regular basis, a foam roller is the next best thing.

When you first start using the foam roller, you will feel some pain in certain areas. That is normal—it’s an indicator of a trigger point. As you use the foam roller more frequently you’ll smooth out muscle tension and increase blood flow, removing scar tissue and elongating the muscle. In addition to relieving soreness and removing metabolic waste from your muscles, deep-tissue massage alleviates physical stress from repeated, strenuous activity or prolonged sedentation (read: a long day at work).

Foam rollers can be had for as little as $5. Don’t buy those ones; they will quickly lose their shape and deform within a month or two. A durable foam roller can last for years.

A good, high-density foam roller should be firm and sturdy, at least two feet long, and have a max weight capacity of at least 400lbs.  High-quality rollers can be had for around $50 or $60.

Here’s a good one: http://www.amazon.com/TriggerPoint-The-Grid-Foam-Roller/dp/B004FF6P50/ref=pd_sbs_sg_4

Don’t skimp on equipment when it comes to health and fitness; you get what you pay for.

Instructions on how to use a foam roller:

http://sportsmedicine.about.com/od/flexibilityandstretching/ss/FoamRoller_2.htm

Roll for 30-60 secs on a given area. You can massage nearly every surface of your body.

Find a spot that is extra sore or sensitive? Hold that position longer for a deeper release.

Keep as much of your weight on the roller. Avoid using other parts of your body or hands to absorb the weight. The more force pressing against the foam roller, the more thorough the massage.

Tennis balls can be used to massage your feet. Place the tennis ball under your foot and maneuver it over every part of your foot. This works best if you stand on the ball; that’ll alleviate the most pressure.

You can do foam roll massages daily.Use the foam roller after you exercise, in conjunction with a stretching routine. Loose, relaxed muscles facilitate effective stretching. You may find it more beneficial to massage your muscles and then stretch.

Note: Avoid using the foam roller on bones and joints (e.g. knee, elbow). Those parts of your body were not meant to be massaged or contorted.

Disclaimer: Consult a medical professional before beginning any new physical activity.

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