The Foam Roller

What Can A Foam Roller Do For Me?

Using a foam roller is a type of self myofascial release. Fascia is connective tissue that surrounds and supports muscles, organs, and other body tissues.

When it is restricted it inhibits the functioning and performance of those soft tissues.

Its benefits are most effective on the muscles and tissues that are closer to the surface of the body because you cannot reach the organs and deeper tissues with this method.

So when it comes to the muscle, restricted fascia will cause:

  • decreased circulation to the muscles
  • a build up of metabolic wastes in those tissues
  • an inability to fully lengthen and contract your muscles
  • imbalances which effect everything from posture to coordination
  • the ability to perform activities that you once found easier to do.

In addition, aches and pains develop in the localized tissues as well as in areas that may be distally related to that tissue.

Myofascial restriction is something that is no respecter of age and can be a problem in the young as well as in the old.

When your muscles ache and don't function properly, psychologically, many end up consigning themselves to the idea that they just can't do certain things.

Granted, with advancing years this issue becomes more and more real, but you don"t have to arrive there earlier than necessary.

Even the very old can literally feel better, have increased agility, flexibility, stamina, and capabilities by the release of these tissues.

The young will be able to perform in sports or other activities better no matter what their activity happens to be.

What is a Foam Roller?

It is a piece of dense foam sufficient in density to support the human body weight without becoming deformed.

It is tubular, shaped like a column, and its most common measurements are from six inches in diameter down to about three inches in diameter. It is approximately twelve inches to about thirty-six inches in length.

The most common size is the six inch diameter and it is the size that I have. It works well for me.

Mine is twleve inches in length. If they are shorter than that they tend to pop out and you lose them. Longer than thirty-six inches makes them awkward and cumbersome.

The common pool noodle is too soft and will not work well. A round log is too hard.

Other variations to the round foam roll is the half round versions. These do not roll and for the very early beginner may provide more ease of use until they can advance to the full roll.

However, this is not a very difficult therapy and most do not need to progress from the half roll to the full roll. They simply just go to the full roll and do quite well with it.

You can also purchase foam rollers in the shape of a ball. They are more difficult to work with and they put more intense pressure on a more specific area.

This is a relatively inexpensive piece of equipment and will last a long time and provide many benefits to the body.

It works well and is generally a one time expense of not more than thirty dollars.

How Does a Foam Roller Help?

The fascia is a type of soft connective tissue which surrounds muscles, muscle groups, organs, and other tissues of the body.

In a healthy state it provides support and protection for the tissues that it envelops.

However, such things as:

  • overuse
  • trauma
  • inactivity
  • infections
  • and some diseases

can create problems such as pain, tension, and decreased blood flow. These can then increase inflammation of the tissues involved and their surrounding fascia.

This inflammation, which in most cases becomes chronic in nature, will eventually snowball into worse and worse conditions, and will cause a thickening of the connective tissues.

This becomes known as fibrosis. In addition, edema (swelling) and tissue dysfunction may also develop.

In the case of muscle and its surrounding connective tissue, one will often experience:

  • pain
  • tension and rippling of the fascia
  • trigger points
  • loss of muscle flexibility
  • imbalances of the muscles
  • weaknesses
  • other similar symptoms.

This in turn can and will influence our posture and performance in any activity that brings those tissues into play.

Increased Muscle Size.

I have a son who is a body builder. It is a common practice for him and others who want to develop bigger muscles to have frequent deep tissue massage.

This massage frees up and breaks up the fascia that surrounds the muscles. This is done because the fascia can inhibit muscular development or growth if it is too fibrous and thus restrictive.

How Is Releasing Myofascia Accomplished?

Conventional Methods.

Common conventional methods of releasing restricted myofascial structures are tissue massage of both deep and of a soft nature.

Therapists will use knuckles, elbows, and other tools to stretch and release the fascia. Also trigger point therapy to those tissues is helpful.

Some therapists will also utilize electrical stimulation of various forms, heat and/or ice, and ultrasound.

These methods require someone else doing the therapy on you.

They can be very effective since the therapist can structure the techniques specifically for you. However, it requires multiple sessions and can become fairly costly.

Matt foam rolling his Lats (Latissimus Dorsi)

Using a Foam Roller.

A very effective alternative method both monetarily and in the overall benefits that can be obtained, is the utilization of a foam roller.

Because it can be done by oneself on multiple occasions without the use of a therapist, it is often called self myofascial release.

It is done by positioning the foam roller directly under the affected muscle or muscle group and slowly rolling over the entire muscle. It is important to focus on the specifically involved areas.

Your own body weight supplies the pressure necessary to release the restricted fascia.

When you come to sore spots, slow down and even stop on those areas. The pressure helps to break up restricted fascia, enhance circulation, and bring the muscle back to a more useable state.

Those sore spots can become very tender under pressure and whatever method is used to help it will be tender to perform.

It is recommended that this process be incorporated into your current workouts or exercise programs and that it be done a minimum of two to three times per week.

Benefits and Other Things to Know About Self Myofascial Release Techniques.

  • Breaking up the fascia is not the most comfortable thing to do. There is a degree of discomfort but the results are worth the time and effort to do it.

    Utilizing a foam roller allows you to control the amount of discomfort that you can endure while performing the techniques.

  • Just be aware that there will be some discomfort and it is necessary to experience it or you will not get the desired results as you roll across and through some of the restricted fascia and trigger points.
  • When all is said and done and the trigger points begin to move out and the fascia becomes freed up, you will definitely feel better. Everything that was caused by the restricted fascia will begin to feel better.
  • Breaking down the restricted tissues of the fascia, which may even include some scar tissue, will increase flexibility and will allow the muscles to be used as they were intended to be used.
  • Circulation to the underlying tissues of the fascia will improve.

    Thus all of the benefits of proper circulation including oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange, nutrient and metabolic waste exchanges, along with the enhanced energy and endurance to the involved tissues, will be enhanced.

  • The problems that you will be working on may not be equal on different sides of the body. When this is the case (which is often) it suggests that you have imbalance in the tissues of the body.

    Self myofascial release of the fascia will help to restore these imbalances.

  • The foam roller is used mainly on primary muscle groups in the body, but it can be used any where on the body where the fascia is restricted and benefits can result by its use.
  • Utilizing a foam roller two to three times per week can and will be beneficial to any type of exercise and or sport that you choose to do.

If you have reservations about doing these techniques, consult your physician.

Brusing, varicose veins, some skin conditions and other such situations may alter or even restrict your ability to perform these techniques. However, most people can greatly benefit by using a foam roller.

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"Thank you so much for this great information. You have made it very easy to understand how it works, what it does, and why I need to be using a foam roller." - Jeff

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