More and more we are seeing techniques previously reserved for athletes and industry professionals enter the mass market for health and fitness. One such technique that exists is that of foam rolling; a method of self-massage that is used to release tightness in the muscles.
So why is it that a lot of these specialist forms of physical therapy are becoming everyday practice for so many of us? Well, one reason is education. There is more information out there now than ever before and anyone who is able to access it can take their own levels of fitness to even greater heights. Then there is the fact that a lot of the specialist equipment that was previously only purchasable through professional channels is easily found in high street stores. Getting yourself a foam roller is easy and relatively inexpensive; it is as simple as that.
Now let’s talk about what we are actually using this thing for. Like I mentioned above, it is all about relieving muscle tightness and trying to get back to normal muscle function. The way it works is by applying pressure to specific areas of pain, known as trigger points, for around a minute. You should expect this to feel slightly uncomfortable but if you are in excruciating pain then something isn’t right and that is when you should be speaking to a doctor.
Essentially, what we are looking at is an alternative to deep tissue massage that you can do yourself. Massages from other people can be helpful but no one knows your body as well as you do. Taking control of your own recovery will allow you to specifically target those areas that are causing you serious discomfort.
Stretching is usually where we start when we are trying to relieve muscle pain but it isn’t always enough on its own. Foam rolling, when done properly, allows us to get closer to the ideal stage where muscles feel elastic, healthy and ready to perform. Completely pain free movement is the goal for many of us but it will rarely be fully met.
Dealing with muscle pain is obviously important but it would be much easier if we could just prevent it in the first place. And that means we need to consider exactly what it is that is causing this pain. The problem is that the causes of muscle pain vary greatly. Anything from the intensity of training or a specific injury, ranging to the amount of rest and your nutrition can all play a part in the injuries that your body sustains.
The great thing about foam rolling is that it can be used for a whole host of different muscle groups. Other than your lower back, there isn’t really an area of your body that a foam roller shouldn’t be used on. In particular, foam rolling exercises can be great for calves, quads, hamstrings, lats and more.
The actual rollers themselves are now being tailored to specifically suit home therapy, with traditional models being manufactured with handles and made to vibrate. Not to mention you can get them in almost any colour, size and density. So now there is no excuse not to include a foam roller in your home gym kit.