My patients are probably tired of hearing me talk about it, but foam rolling is like a self-massage – it gently kneads the muscles to improve pliability. Rolling it back and forth under your quads, glutes, or hamstrings is a great way to improve blood flow and flexibility – preparing your body for activity.
A general rule of thumb is to roll each muscle group about 10 times prior to exercise or as routine maintenance a few times per week. You can foam roll almost any muscle in your arms, legs and back. I have handouts in the office to help guide you to safely roll each muscle group.
Another benefit of foam rolling is that the sensory input from pushing on the muscles stimulates them to function properly. Muscles often become inhibited from past injuries, repetitive movements, or periods of disuse. Inhibited muscles don’t fire on time or at all and can result in injury to themselves or the closest joint. Foam rolling prior to activity will wake them up.
Finally, foam rolling is great for trigger points and sore muscles. A trigger point is a painful “knot” in a muscle. As you roll, you may notice a few spots that hurt more than others. Focusing on these areas with the foam roll can help break apart the scar tissue or adhesions. The sensory input into the nervous system will also help reduce the pain. Apply gentle pressure to a sore spot for 1-2 minutes or until the pain starts to subside.