Why Everyone Should Try Foam Rolling and How to Do It So It Doesn’t Hurt

Have you heard about the latest routine to keep your body flexible and relive sore muscles at the same time? It’s called self-myofascial release, more commonly known as foam rolling and if you thought it had something to do with surfing, well, don’t be embarrassed, check out this highly effective routine instead!


As we age, our once flexible muscles tend to lose some of their elasticity and our joints lose their natural lubrication, causing us to develop many more aches, and pains. The good news here is that you don’t have to spend a fortune visiting a chiropractor or physical therapist, foam rolling is a super affordable yet simple way to help maintain a flexible, healthy body no matter what your age.

A green foam roller isolated on white with natural shadows. Foam

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This previously little known and mysterious technique used by physical therapists and coaches has now found its way into mainstream. You can do foam rolling with a lacrosse ball, theracane, or a foam roll. The object being that when you apply pressure to a certain part of the body, you help aid in the recovery and normal functioning of sore or damaged muscles.


What is the Difference between Trigger Points and Tight Muscles?

Think of trigger points as knots within our muscles, however, they tend to refer pain. This means that when pressure is applied to one part of the body but you feel pain in another part of the body, or the pain radiates outward from that location. Tight muscles are exactly that, you might feel some discomfort when you touch them, but you don’t feel pain elsewhere. FInd out how to lower back pain by sport.


Foam Rolling for Those with Injuries:

Foam rolling will improve circulation, bringing important blood flow to damaged muscles.

Try this on your hamstrings, a common place for injuries.

Sit on top of the foam roller put it under one thigh. Now, using your arms to lift your body, glide over the roller from your behind and then to the back of the knee. Try to do this for 1 minute, then change legs.

NEVER use the foam roller directly on your lower back! Back pain can be relieved by keeping the foam roller on the hips. Rolling on your lower back will cause the muscles to tense up to protect it, which is the opposite of what you want. You are looking to loosen muscles, not tighten them.


To Release Stress:

Foam rolling is the perfect way to proactively “roll” stress out of the body. Foam rolling allows you to reach places where many people tend to carry their tension, such as the shoulders and neck. Think of the time you spend foam rolling as meditation. Focus on relaxing our body, deepening your breath, and releasing muscular tension.


Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Put the foam roller horizontally under the upper back, just below the shoulder blades. Put your hand behind your head. Roll the foam roller along your upper spine, spending a few extra moments on those tight spots around the shoulders.

After this exercise, you can use a very long foam roller that runs the length from your neck to your pelvis. Set it vertically along your spine. Allow your arms to drop and relax at your sides. You can keep your feet on the floor with your knees bent, or allow your knees to fall open but keeping your feet together. Breathe deeply and hold this position for 2 to 3 minutes.


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For Dancers:

Ladies: would you love to have one of those long, lean bodies that you see on dancers? This is one way to get it; foam rolling! If you imagine foam rolling as an iron for your muscles, allowing them to stretch out to their full potential, you will get the idea about how this works.

Foam and wood rollers are the common tools for professional dancers. Foam rolling is great for lengthening tissue, especially the bottoms of the feet, but many dancers also find that tennis balls can do the same thing while being more portable than a foam roller.

Try placing a tennis ball under one hip, knee bent, and foot turned out. Now roll around gently on the tennis ball for about 30 seconds, then move to another spot or the other hip. If you feel numbness or tingling while doing this, you should stop as this is a sign you are rubbing a nerve the wrong way. Try using less pressure, or a softer ball.


For Athletes and Runners:

If you exercise more than twice a week, foam rolling should be a part of your pre and post workout routine. Maximize your potential by engaging key muscles before you work out. Foam rolling is an active warm-up tool as well as a recovery tool.

Before you begin a big cardio workout, using the foam roller will prime those major muscles, helping them to receive more oxygen and thus work faster, harder, and longer.

Massaging your IT band using foam rolling is great way to stop the pain that many runners and athletes feel between the knee and the hip.

Lie on one side with your foam roller under your hip. Prop yourself up on your hand or your elbow and roll back and forth over the foam roller between the knee and the hip. This might be a bit painful at first, so use less pressure until you are more accustomed to this movement.


If You’re Pregnant:

Pregnancy is an exciting time but it’s also a time for achy feet, low back, and hip pain. Gentle foam rolling can relieve this lower back pain and improve blood flow in the legs to prevent those unsightly varicose veins. Always talk with your doctor before beginning any type of workout, even foam rolling. Remember that even though many women enjoy the release that foam rolling gives them, it’s not for everyone. If you feel pain or if it doesn’t feel good, don’t do it.

Use a very soft foam roller so you don’t get intense pressure. Don’t roll the insides of the lower legs or any area that might be showing signs of varicose veins. Also, don’t foam roll on your chest or abdomen. Focus instead on releasing pressure on the lower back. This is where most of the pregnancy weight is carried and this is what affects blood flow to your legs.


Foam rolling is very similar to a deep tissue massage so keep that in mind when you are pregnant.


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Tips for Effective Rolling:

  • Never roll directly on painful areas – Avoid rolling directly on painful areas but instead, focus on the muscles that are surrounding the area which are most likely causing an imbalance and are the true source of the pain. Focus your rolling on a few inches away from the source of your pain and you will be helping those muscles relax and repair themselves without bringing inflammation to the area.
  • Go Slow – Your brain needs a little time to send the signal to your muscles to relax so you can receive the maximum benefit possible from foam rolling. When you find an area with tension that allows you to feel the pain level of about an 8 on a scale of 1 to 10, then this is when you need to sit on that pressure point and take deep breaths until you feel your body settle and relax. Stay on that pressure point until the pain level drops down to about a 4. Then you can work down that same muscle by rolling a few inches away from the original point. This will allow the tension to simply melt away.
  • Foam roll for a minimum of 10 minutes per session, two times a week – This will bring you improved posture, relief from stress, help to prevent injuries, support pregnant women, move more easily, and live a life free from joint and muscle pain.

Happy Rolling!