Foam Rollers: Do They Actually Work?

Many people use foam rollers to improve the effects of massages on problem areas. But foam rollers are just as beneficial outside of a massage setting – they can actually help you in many ways, including better circulation, flexible joints, lessened soreness, and dealing with troublesome pressure points. But do they work?

First, how does it work?

Foam rolling uses what is known as self-myofascial release, or SMR. This type of therapy relaxes contracted muscles that can cause pain in other areas of the body by applying pressure to tender points on the body known as "trigger points". This helps to restore optimal blood flow to tight muscles, thereby improving flexibility and range of motion. It also improves circulation to your joints and organs, as well as flushing out toxins in your system.

What are the benefits?

Foam rollers can be used to help release muscle tightness or trigger points. By using your own body weight and a foam roller you can perform a self-massage or myofascial release, break up scar tissue, and soothe tight fascia while increasing blood flow and circulation to the soft tissues.

"Trigger points are small, hyperirritable knots that develop in a muscle or in the fascia (the connective tissue that surrounds the muscles). Trigger points cause pain locally, as well as in a referred pattern. A tight band of muscle fibers develop around the trigger point, which decreases blood flow and oxygen to the area. This causes even more pain, to form a vicious cycle. There is usually no visible distortion in the muscle or skin."

According to Prevention Magazine, "Trigger points can be caused by injury, overuse or stress. They can also result from a previous injury that never healed properly. The good news is that trigger points can be treated with foam rollers, which massage and stretch your muscles. By applying pressure to these sore spots, you can increase blood flow and relieve tension."

Foam rollers are a great way to address common problem areas, but you need to proceed carefully. There's no question that foam rollers can be incredibly effective for reducing tension in your muscles. But the more you use them and the longer you stay on them, the more likely you are to get injured.

If you are planning on using the foam roller for an extended period of time, here are two rules:

  • Never put pressure on or near a joint or bone. You can cause serious damage by rolling over a joint, like the knee or shoulder.
  • Never spend more than 15 seconds on any one area. This is especially important if you're using a high-density roller — which we recommend — because it's easy to bruise your muscles if you stay in one place for too long.

Foam rollers are generally considered safe for most people. If you have any questions about whether foam rolling is appropriate for you, it's best to consult with your doctor or physical therapist.

If you’re still not sold on the foam roller, then perhaps this last section will change your opinion on the tool. After all, your health is important and it would be a shame to pass up something that can so effectively improve your overall well being! Foam rollers are a simple and effective tool that is worth the time to try out. Foam rolling can help your body recover more quickly from workouts and helps to alleviate the discomfort of certain chronic pains. The best way to use a foam roller is to incorporate it into your daily routine in such a way that will enhance it. For example, use it after waking up, before a workout, or even as a substitute for stretching prior to exercising.

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