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What does Foam Rolling do?
Tension in the body is usually caused by repetitive movements in joints and muscles, this could be through running, aerobic or resistance sports. Foam rolling helps muscles to heal and recover and return to their ‘normal state’ quicker than if self-massage was not undertaken.
Through an increased blood flow throughout your body, foam rolling can help to enhance your sport performance by reducing the chance of injuries such as muscle tears.
Foam rolling stretches out muscles to help increase muscle movement and flexibility, this then helps to release trigger points within the body which are a source of tension. Trigger points are knots within your muscles which, when probed, can trigger pain elsewhere, despite pain initially being held in one area of your body.
Foam rolling allows you to work to your own pain threshold and alter this according to the level of pain you are experiencing. You can then increase or decrease the pressure applied by adding or taking away body weight pressure during the process. Often as your muscles relax and you become used to the foam roller you can increase the pressure applied.
Foam Roller Exercises
A foam roller can be used on a variety of muscles within the body, however it’s best to avoid areas such as joints, bones, neck and the lower back. These areas may require more specific treatment from a medical professional or sports therapist as they are more sensitised to pain.
Often you’ll find the most relief from foam rolling in your leg and shoulder muscles.
To use self-massage, place a foam roller in the area you are experiencing pain and apply your bodyweight onto the roller to help roll it along the muscle. You should work on around 1 inch per second, with a slow rolling movement. After round 5-30 seconds you should feel the muscle start to relax.
Initially you may find it difficult to get into a position which you find comfortable so familiarising yourself with a few tried and tested ways can help to ease you into a foam rolling routine with exercises which work for you.
Upper Back Roll
To use a foam roller on your upper back, lie down on the floor with the foam roller underneath the upper part of your back with your arms crossed in front of you. Raise your hips off the ground and place your weight onto the foam. Once you have rolled one area, repeat on the alternate side.
If you have tension in your calf muscles, place the roller underneath your lower leg whilst you are seated. With your hands at either side, press down to raise hips off the floor with your weight on your calf muscles, rolling from below the knee to your ankle.
Similar to the calf roll exercise, whilst seated place the foam roller at the back of your upper legs, with your hands to support your weight either side. With your hips lifted off the floor, put your weight onto the roller and roll on one leg. Roll from below your hip to above the back of your knee, before repeating on the opposite leg.
Incorporating these exercises into your routine can provide you with an at home solution to muscle tension and improve your recovery time following a workout.
Ben Barker is the Clinic Director at Total Health Clinics, and is Osteopath to Aston Villa Football Club.
He divides his time between all four of his clinics and Aston Villa.
With experience in working with a number of local health centres, he has a keen interest in sports injury and has lectured at a number of sports clubs.
Ben has treated many professional sports men and women from The Premier football league to world ranked Tennis players.