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Using Foam Rollers To Eliminate Chronic Pain

Using Foam Rollers To Eliminate Chronic Pain

Back pain is one of the most common health problems that many people deal with, especially as they grow older. Whether you’re sitting at a computer all day or going all-out in the gym, your back muscles and bones often take a beating. But no matter when it strikes or what might be the cause, back pain can be a real, well… pain, to deal with. Aside from causing you tremendous pain and suffering, back pain can wreak havoc on your world and significantly hinder your performance at work, as well as interfere with your daily life.

The good news? There are really simple things you can do to help you manage or prevent back pain and keep your back in a good healthy condition. One of them includes the use of foam rollers. The use of foam rollers or foam rolling is an effective method that can help you alleviate that back pain and correct your posture without the need to spend hundreds and thousands of dollars on professional massage therapy, or invest heavily in physical therapy or surgery. They are also easy to use and take up little space, it’s no wonder they are now popular in many health clubs, physical therapists’ offices, and home gyms.

 

Fit blonde stretching on floor using foam roller

So let’s start with what foam rolling is. Foam rolling is a form of self-myofascial release (SMR). This is a form of stretching whereby you release a muscles’ tension, through gentle pressure on the knots and stiff areas. Foam rolling essentially gives you the opportunity to apply the pressure to yourself, so think of it as a self-massage! Maybe you are wondering, “what then, is the difference between foam rolling and traditional stretching”? Well, stretching alone is not always enough when it comes down to releasing muscle tightness. You can imagine stretching a cord with a knot tied into it, this will create tension. Although it will release a good part of the muscle and the attachment points but the knot will still stay in place. But when foam rolling, the pressure created by your own body weight helps to release muscle knots. By applying pressure in precise sore locations, you are able to aid in the recovery of muscles and assist in returning these muscles to normal function.

The goal of foam rolling and many other myofascial therapies is to stretch, and loosen up your fascia so that it and other structures can move more freely. Fascia is the tissue that surrounds our muscle fibers and organs so that they may glide smoothly past each other to reduce friction in the body.  It is made primarily of densely packed collagen fibers that permeate your muscles, bones, nerves, blood vessels and organs. Here’s the deal, there isn’t a place in your body where fascia doesn’t exist. So when fascia becomes restricted, knots, adhesions, and scar tissue develop around the fascia. This causes tightness and soreness in the muscle, pain, and restricted movement. But with regular foam rolling and stretching, your blood circulation and function is increased. This helps to prevent muscle soreness and tightness which then results in decreased muscle and joint pain, improved mobility, prevention of injury, and balance, which all make your muscles ready to get engaged and perform in the daily activities of life.

 

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Foam rollers come in different sizes and shapes and have different foam types and of course, they vary in prices. By determining your specific uses for the foam roller, you can buy one that fits you best. It’s always important to use a good quality, durable, foam roller that will support your body weight. But what’s more important than the specific brand of roller you use is the way you use it. Although it is not very common to get injured when using foam rollers but when used incorrectly, you could actually be worsening the problem.

Here are some tips you can follow when using foam rollers:

  1. Never roll directly over the pain

When foam rolling, it is always very tempting to roll directly over the site of the pain but a painful area may be the result of tension imbalances in other places in your body. Also, rolling a painful, inflamed area might do more harm than good. It’s often best to roll just a few inches away from a highly sensitive area first and then then use large sweeps over the entire area.

  1. Don’t spend too much time on a knot or sore spot

When most people find a knot or spot when foam rolling, their first thought is to spend a lot of time working on it. But this can cause nerve or tissue damage and bruising. Spend no more than 15-30 seconds working on a tender area while managing how much pressure you apply.

  1. Don’t roll too fast

While it might feel great to roll back and forth on a foam roller quickly, it won’t help to alleviate the tightness in your muscles. Instead, go slower on your rolls, so your muscles have time to adapt and relax with the pressure.

  1. Avoid bad posture while rolling

Because of the way you have to position your body to use the foam roller, it is important to make sure your posture and form are correct, or you could make your condition worse. One way to ensure this is by working with an experienced trainer, physical therapist or coach who can show you proper form and technique.

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Using a foam roller on your lower back can also be very dangerous because rolling your lower back will cause your spinal muscles to contract to protect your spine. You can try releasing your lower back by rolling the muscles that connect to it. If you’re new to foam rolling, start out gradually with lighter pressure and a shorter session. Most importantly, understand what the origin of your pain is before you start using foam rollers. Know what you are trying to achieve through foam rolling and how to do it properly. And don’t forget to stick with it.

If you have an existing back or spine condition that is causing your muscle tightness, you should always check with your doctor before entering into foam rolling. Your doctor can help to make sure you are using the foam roller in a way that won’t do more damage.

I like to hear from the readers so please leave me a comment below to let me know if this post helped you or if you have any questions.

4 thoughts on “Using Foam Rollers To Eliminate Chronic Pain

  1. This sounds too good to be true, to be honest.
    Have there been any studies done on this method?

    1. Hi Martha,

      Yes, foam rolling offers tremendous potential to relieve pain and help you move better–if used the right way. If not, you risk irritating, and possibly injuring, your body further. That’s why you should always consult a physical therapist when in doubt. You can also check accredited online classes that teach the proper use of foam rolling.

  2. Nice post. But just a little question here. The thing is that, about 2 months ago, I injured my IT band, halfway through training for a marathon. Because of this, I stopped running so as to make it heal. But I can still feel pain when I massage it. Then I bought a foam roller and tried it out a few days ago, but the pain was excruciating. My IT band is now quite sore. I have a doctor’s appointment in the next 3 days but I want to know, do people with IT band injuries feel a lot of pain when they first start using foam rollers?

    1. Hi Alex,

      In the beginning the foam roller will hurt. It might help you to put one leg down on the floor to take a little bit of the weight off your thigh as you are rolling. Still leave enough pressure to really work the thigh/band, but until you get more used to it, you can alleviate some pain by resting a foot on the floor. Overtime the foam roller should no longer hurt at all when you use it and should actually feel good. Try the suggestions. I hope they really help you with your IT issues. If you’re still having problems I would seek the assessment of a good physical therapist. Good luck.

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