Should you use a foam roller?

Foam rolling is now a well know, popular method of self-massage and you will find them in most gyms and sports enthusiast's homes, but there are dangers to haphazardly rolling your muscles! So far, the few studies that have been done show that foam rolling does not improve performance but may improve muscle tone and reduce some post exercise fatigue. It is important to be clear what your objective is when setting out with your roller.

Here's some advice on how to get the best from your foam roller and avoid injury:

Choosing a roller;

  • Get yourself a good roller: if you buy cheap you generally get cheap. Cheap rollers will often squash and give after just a few uses and become ineffective.
  • Go for smooth foam, and avoid hard pipes, rollers with extreme spikes or knobbles.

When should you roll?

  • Try foam rolling after a warmup to promote flexibility of tissues.
  • They can be used post-workout to help reduce aches and pains.
  • Before bed may help to relieve tension in muscles and promote a good night's sleep.

How frequently should I roll?

  • Not every day! Only use a roller 2/3 times a week.
  • Always start lightly, progressively working deeper.
  • Slowly roll over your chosen area then move on, don't spend long periods on one point.
  • Spend no longer than 10 – 20 seconds rolling a 'knot' or trigger point.
  • Foam rolling might feel uncomfortable, but it should not be painful. If it's painful, STOP.

What should I avoid?

  • Don't foam roll your ITB (ilio-tibial band). The ITB isn't a muscle and you can't stretch it! It's a fibrous band of tissue that extends from the top of your hip to your knee that can (mistakenly) be blamed for knee pain, commonly in runners. Instead, try working more into the buttocks and thigh muscles.
  • Avoid rolling your lower back, any inflamed areas and directly over joints.
  • Don't use direct pressure on a tight area/trigger point for longer than 20 seconds to avoid damaging tissue.
  • Avoid poor posture. Rolling your muscles involves supporting yourself in various positions, not leaning all your weight on the roller.

If you're unsure whether you should use a foam roller, or if you're using it correctly come and ask us, we'd love to help!

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