The popularity of foam rolling has grown exponentially over the past decade – and for good reason. Not only can using a foam roller help you relax tight muscles and ease aches and pains, it can even help you become more aware of how you move your body as you go through your daily life, helping to protect you from injuries that could creep up.
That’s why in this article, we’re going to delve into all things foam rolling. We’ll take a deep dive into exactly what foam rolling is and how it works for your body, as well as the big benefits you can achieve by incorporating foam rolling into your daily life. So, let’s jump in!
Foam rolling: the basics
The name foam roller pretty much says it all since it’s simply a cylindrical tube manufactured from tightly compacted foam. These rollers can be used across multiple areas of your body from your hips to your shoulders, and even down your thighs. They not only deliver a serious deep tissue massage to the body part of your choice, they can banish deep down tension and help get you moving again. They can also be used at any time of the day.
If you have lower back pain in the morning, wake up to foam rolling to stop waking up with lower back pain!
Is being on your feet all day causing lower back pain when standing? A foam roller could help you feel better!
Have tight calves or thighs after running? Using a foam roller after your workout can be key in keeping your workout on track.
What makes foam rolling work?
While we don’t know everything about how foam rolling works yet, research into its action is ongoing. However, current expert theories say that the power of foam rolling lies in its ability to:
- Stimulate pain receptors
Much of the benefits of foam rolling are likely due to the way it interacts with your nervous system. It does this by triggering a reaction in the pain receptors in your muscles and other tissues, which may result in a relaxation reaction.
- Reduce spasm
Much of the pain you feel in your back and other bodily areas can be due to muscle spasms, and this is where foam rolling really shines. The deep pressure foam rolling delivers not only stretches the tight muscle fibers, it can also release trigger points that are locking down those fibers. It’s 2-in-1 spasm fighting power.
- Block pain signals
We’ve long known that the feeling of a small amount of pain can help reduce a more intense pain. It’s why some people pinch themselves after hitting their funny bone. It’s likely that foam rolling works on this same principle, creating a small level of pain that helps block the feeling of other pains throughout your body.
The many benefits of foam rolling
As we mentioned, more research is needed into the area of foam rolling. However, because of these actions, foam rolling is believed to offer a number of important benefits, which are backed up by the real stories of people helped by the practice.
Extensive reports of foam rolling benefits include:
- Delaying the onset of muscle soreness after exercise, allowing you to hit your next workout just as hard as ever
- Decreased recovery time post exercise
- Enhanced blood flow, which supports healthy tissues, organs and immune function through improved lymphatic drainage
- Significant increase in flexibility
- Increased range of motion and mobility
- Reduced muscle soreness
- Easing of muscular tension and stiffness
And these are only the immediate benefits that foam rolling could offer you – the ones you’ll see within 1.5 hours of use. However, through long-term use, you might achieve even more important benefits, such as improved posture, which can help ward off pain, rather than just addressing it after the pain starts.
This means that sticking to a regular foam rolling routine of a few minutes a day can result in real, lasting changes.
I’ve heard foam rolling hurts. Why is that?
The truth is that yes, foam rolling can be painful when you first start. That’s because your muscles not only aren’t used to the process or deep pressure yet, they’re also likely full of inflammation and trigger points that want to stick around and are putting up a fight to the death.
However, most people find that within about 10 days, the discomfort they experience with foam rolling is dramatically reduced making the entire process feel either good or like it hurts, but in a good way that signals their body is getting better and better.
The keys to ensuring safe and beneficial foam rolling every time are as follows:
- Start slow and work your way up, so if you can only handle a few seconds at first, that’s okay.
- For each muscle, only use the foam roller for 30 to 90 seconds total. When you spend too much time rolling one body area, pain, bruising and swelling can result, which will make your next foam rolling session even more painful.
- Only use a foam roller on your muscles. Foam rolling is not meant for your joints themselves. So if you’re working your outer thigh, you should stop the roller below the hip joint itself.
- Using a foam roller is a no if you have a blood clot, neuropathy of the region you plan to roll, a fracture or joint injury that requires surgery, advanced osteoporosis or an open wound. In other words, like with everything in life, using common sense will help you decide if foam rolling is right for you.
It’s also important to remember that while you may experience discomfort while using a foam roller, this pain should stop when you’re finished. If it doesn’t and your symptoms become worse, it’s recommended to stop and talk to your doctor before continuing.
Wrapping it up
Foam rolling is an easy option to help reduce back pain and muscular tension in less than two minutes per day. You can use an individual foam roller, or if you have the Backlounge premium inversion table, you can leverage its built in foam rollers to grab all their benefits while decompressing the disc spaces between your vertebrae and stretching and elongating your spinal muscles.