After a hard workout or a stressful week at work, getting a massage is one of the best acts of self-care you can do for yourself. Unfortunately, unless your partner or roommate is a masseuse, expecting weekly massages isn’t very realistic.
Massages help to release tight, sore muscles and trigger points — but they aren’t the only way. If you don’t have access to regular massages, we suggest you give foam rolling a try. Foam rolling is an outstanding alternative that provides deep tissue release at a fraction of the price. Plus, you can foam roll whenever, wherever you want!
What is foam rolling?
Foam rolling is a type of self-myofascial release (SMR). SMR is a technical term for releasing tight muscles, connective tissue (fascia) and trigger points (sensitive points on muscles) with self-massage. Using a tool like a foam roller to apply pressure to these areas often helps relieve tight muscles and cause myofascial pain syndrome. Myofascial pain syndromes is when pressure applied to trigger points causes pain to radiate to other (seemingly unrelated) areas of the body. The pain you feel in other areas of the body is called referred pain (don’t worry, it’s not a bad thing).
Why should I foam roll?
While the jury is still out on whether foam rolling is the best method for SMR, recent studies have shown that proper foam rolling before or after a workout does have its benefits. In addition to relieving tight and sore muscles, it also improves joint range of motion and overall muscle performance.
Foam rolling benefits
Reduce pesky knots. Intense exercise can lead to delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). When you feel sore, you’re essentially feeling pain from microtrauma (tiny tears) in the muscle fibers. Oftentimes, as your body repairs the muscles, small knots form. Foam rolling helps align the muscle fibers and reduce discomfort as the body repairs itself.
- Flush toxins. Another way foam rolling helps alleviate soreness is by moving lactic acid and carbon dioxide — toxins built up during exercise — out of the muscles and tissues, and into the lymphatic system.
- Improve circulation. Foam rolling increases blood circulation, which helps muscles repair faster.
- Help ROM. Range of motion often decreases during exercise and strength training. This is because as muscles grow, they constrict and shorten during recovery. Connective tissue also thickens and tightens in an effort to protect the muscles. Foam rollers aid in the release of tension, allowing muscles to lengthen and return to their original size. This, in turn, improves range of motion. Picture this: Visualize your muscles as Play-Doh. When you roll out Play-Doh, it becomes bendy and pliable — oh, and less likely to snap.
While foam rolling is great to do on your own, if you have any nagging injuries or suspect a pulled muscle, always consult your doctor before adding foam rolling to your exercise routine.