Foam rolling for pain relief and post-workout recovery
For those not familiar, foam rolling is almost like a massage that you perform on yourself using the foam roller as an assistive. The goal is to release tension and pain, increase circulation, and affect muscle tone through the body’s natural reflex mechanisms.
Foam rolling is often touted as a way release or stretch fascial tissue, the connective tissue encasing our muscles. In reality, foam rolling actually targets the muscles and vascular system, and decreases pain and tension in a similar mechanism to massage: compressive forces increase local circulation, boosts endorphins, and modulates local muscle tone and pain through it’s effect on the parasympathetic nervous system.
Here are three potential benefits to foam rolling
- Post-workout recovery: Foam rolling is a great way to cool down after a workout, and can even help with delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) by increasing circulation to the area.
- It improves mobility: By relaxing muscle tissue and helping to treat areas of restriction, foam rolling can help increase flexibility and range of motion, and help maintain the benefits of mobility training.
- It helps calm your nervous system – foam rolling helps increase parasympathetic nervous system response, reducing the body’s stress response and helping to reduce pain and muscle tension.
Tips for Foam Rolling
Foam rolling seems to have a positive impact on muscle soreness and flexibility for most people, although it can be painful in some areas! Here are a few tips to make foam rolling more comfortable:
- Don’t hold your breath! Remember to practice your breathing while you foam roll, taking slow deep breaths can help reduce the discomfort and keep your nervous system calm when it’s painful.
- Use lighter pressure in bony areas: foam rolling over bony areas like the side of the hip, the mid back, or shoulder blades can be particularly tender. Use lighter pressure to start and increase as you go, or switch to a massage ball for smaller areas after warming up with your foam roller.
- Avoid bruises and injuries: there’s no point hurting yourself more than you already are! Foam rolling over a fresh bruise or injured area can make things worse, and should be avoided until healed.