What is a Foam Roller?

You may have heard of foam rolling or self-myofascial release (SMR). And yet you may be asking yourself the questions such as what exactly is a foam roller and what is self-myofascial release. Fascia or myofascia is the dense tissue that forms a sheath around muscles and bones. Over time this tissue may develop abnormalities due to overuse, inactivity, trauma, and tension. Myofascial release is used to eliminate pain and restore lost motion where abnormalities have developed in the fascia. 

A foam roller is a dense foam cylinder that is usually made from a solid piece of dense foam, varying in diameter and length. The outer surface of a foam roller varies between a blank slate to textured surfaces which provide different levels of massage.

The benefits of visiting a massage therapist regularly are countless, but it may be outside of your financial ability. Whether you are an athlete who trains daily or an office worker that sits regularly, there are many benefits from creating a routine of regular SMR or "foam rolling". Regular foam rolling can assist in breaking down abnormalities in the muscle tissue of fascia, aiding in recovery. The break down of these abnormalities in the soft tissue allow blood to flow freely to these areas. The increased blood flow allows the body to transport nutrients efficiently while assisting in the repair of damaged muscles.

Various Foam Rollers
Credit: www.swolept.com

How to Foam Roll

A trigger point is a tight muscle or painful location. Foam rolling is an effective method that can be used to alleviate the discomfort located at a trigger point. Foam rolling is most effective when a foam roller is either used to apply low pressure directly to a trigger point or when it is used for a long duration to roll out the affected soft tissues. Over time the body will release the tight tissues while restoring mobility to these areas.

Foam Rolling for Injury Prevention and Recovery

Injury prevention and foam rolling go hand and hand. Foam rolling can be used before and after exercise, as an active rest day activity, and in general as a healthy habit in your daily routine.

Some benefits of foam rolling as a warm up or alternatively an active rest day activity, are the reduction of muscle tension and increased blood flow throughout the body before working out.

Foam rolling as a cool down exercise assists in flushing blood that has pooled in areas during exercise while increasing the nutrient and oxygen transport assisting in recovery following exercise.

Some benefits of regular foam rolling include the breakdown of abnormalities causing trigger points, pain reduction, increased blood flow throughout the body, better mobility, and increased range of motion. 

Foam rollers are available on various health and wellness websites as well as at most sporting goods box stores.