ROLL WITH IT
As a chiropractor and fitness coach, I often ask patients and clients the following questions - Do you wake up the day after a workout feeling stiff and sore? Is your desk job a (literal) pain in the neck? Are you getting headaches after an upper body workout or a long day at work? If the answer is yes, there are many factors to consider – sleep, stress, hydration, nutrition, ergonomics and self-care, to name a few. One of them may be recurrent or chronic tension. If that’s the case, which for most people is at least part of the reason, it might be time to consider foam rolling as part of your daily routine. Your body will thank you!
A foam roller can be an effective and inexpensive tool to add to your exercise routine. Using it can improve flexibility, help with muscle recovery, and prevent injury. But what does foam rolling really do? Foam rolling (aka tool-assisted self-manual therapy) targets our myofascial system. Our myofascial system includes our muscles as well as their cozy blanket, fascia. Fascia is a multi-layer web of connective tissue that spreads throughout the body and surrounds every muscle, bone, vessel, and organ. When foam rolling, the roller is placed between you and a hard surface, allowing pressure to be applied while you roll back and forth focusing on specific tight muscle groups. A foam roller may also be used to increase mobility and decrease stiffness in certain areas of the body such as the upper back after a long day at the office. Foam rolling has many benefits that can complement your stretching routine.
THE BENEFITS OF FOAM ROLLING
1. IMPROVE RANGE OF MOTION AND FLEXIBILITY
Exercise, injury, and inactivity can cause our myofascial system to tighten up which can, in turn, decrease our flexibility and restrict motion in our joints. We start to feel sore and stiff. Our body doesn’t move freely and now our performance on our morning bike commute or evening soccer game is compromised. Foam rolling can be used immediately before exercise to increase mobility and flexibility as well as after exercise to avoid stiffness. Increased flexibility from foam rolling may be temporary. However, long-term and regular rolling can have more lasting results. Like anything we do, consistency is key!
2. RELAX MUSCLES
Although foam rolling is usually not comfortable at the time, it may reduce our perceived soreness (the soreness that we feel) and increase our pressure pain tolerance. Twenty-four to forty-eight hours after exercise, we may experience discomfort and pain in our muscles known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Foam rolling those achy muscles can help reduce that discomfort and relax our myofascial system.
3. AID IN RECOVERY
While foam rolling helps to improve range of motion, increase flexibility and relax our muscles, it also plays a role in the recovery of our myofascial system. It is thought to increase blood flow to the areas that we are rolling out. More nutrient-rich blood to our sore, over or under-used muscles contributes to their healing and improves their function. The myofascial system becomes tight due to inflammation. Foam rolling may reduce that inflammation by encouraging more blood to the area.
4. PREVENT INJURY
Many injuries can be prevented with a proper warm up and cool down. A foam roller can be incorporated in one of both of those activities. Although static stretches are not encouraged before exercise, foam rolling can be used immediately before activity to increase flexibility and warm up your tissues. When our tissues are warmed up and ready for the activity that we are about to do, we are less likely to injure ourselves. As mentioned above, a foam roller may also be used after a workout to maintain or increase your range of motion and flexibility and manage the dreaded DOMS.
Whether you lift, run, spin, sit all day and/or work at a desk, you can add foam rolling to your daily routine to manage stiff and tense muscles. A regular stretching and rolling routine can improve your mobility and posture; can help you relax and recover, and can keep your body working at top notch. Foam rollers can be purchased at most sports stores and online. They come in a variety of sizes, colours, and densities. Give your muscles some love and roll with it!