How To Use A Foam Roller

What exactly is Foam rolling ? and why should you roll ? 3 tips on how to use foam rolling correctly to avoid muscle stiffness.

Does your back hurt and gets tight and stiff very easily. Do you feel sore on your hips and back every time you go for a little walking or jogging .Do you feel achy and heavy on your whole back and thighs. If you are one of those active people and if your muscle soreness is limiting you from continuing your recreational  routines then make sure you do not miss these valuable tips that I will be talking today .

Before we begin , let’s get to know how we get muscle pain.

Our muscles continuously contract and shorten while we are moving . When you are actually moving your joints you are continuously getting those muscles to shorten. We get muscle soreness because  we do not spend enough time for their recovery after we use them  . Our muscle starts getting stiff and tight with time and presents as pain and discomfort. Not just the muscle tissue it also releases other soft tissues and fascia  that cover the muscles . It’s very important to release these muscles so that they can function optimally . Our body is designed to move and we should always move it appropriately to avoid muscle tension . Our body is not designed to sustain and hold certain positions for a long time. Prolong sustain positions sensitize that particular area of the body and that’s when you start feeling pain and soreness .If you have had previous injury on your back and hips , this stiffness can become much worse. Are you one of those who is sitting and working all day in front of your computer? Your upper back and lower back will be very stiff and tight. If so, you definitely need to understand how important it is to release this muscle to maintain their function .

There are different ways to release these  muscles . One of the approaches is definitely stretching. However , stretching is not always enough .  The difference is, stretching helps to elongate the muscle to some extent.  However, foam rolling uses your own body weight as a pressure and gently rolls  over the muscle tissue and fascia  like deep massage . It helps by breaking the muscle knots and scar tissue and this helps improve blood flow. Research suggests most of our muscle pain comes due to lack of enough blood circulation in the muscles  . Once the muscle comes back to its comfortable resting length, pain decreases and  their performance increases . You will notice that after  using  foam rolling correctly your muscles feel relaxed  and you will instantly feel lighter  . The best approach is to combine both the stretch and foam rolling for maximum relief . Foam rolling is best for releasing your entire upper and lower back and also your hips and thigh muscles . You do need fairly strong core muscles to do this as you activate your core muscles while you use them. Your therapist can guide you on this .

If you are someone who likes to stay active and loves running, jogging , hiking or participating in online group workout programmes , make sure you don’t miss the following three ways to release your entire back and your hips .

  1. upper back pain and foam rolling : 

If you are spending a lot of time working at your computer screen , or if you are someone busy at home as a housewife , you might notice heaviness on your neck and your upper back .Some other thing you might notice is that your neck and back  feels so  heavy that  you just need to lie down . So let’s learn how to release these upper back muscles . 

Make sure you select the good size and length of the foam roller .

Place the foam roll on the floor and lie on it so that the foam roll is under your mid back. Next , bend your knee, keep your foot flat on the floor and gently lift your hips up in the air . Keep your arms straight and bring them up towards your head while your both hands are clasped together .Now gently move the  foam roller up all the way upto the base of your neck and down at the mid back ( mid rib cage ). Your  point of contact with the floor is your both  feet to move the roller along with your mid back . You can continue rolling  in back and forth motion .As you feel the muscle tension is slightly comfortable you can stop at that point . You can use it for 5 to 15 mins depending on how much you can tolerate.

2.  lower back pain and  foam roller: 

Now the lower back consists of larger muscles and they are more easy to work on.These muscles run at either side of your spine all the way down  and the foam roller works best on it .  Place the foam roller either  just above the tailbone at the upper end of the pelvic area of the lower back  or you can place it just where your rib cage ends at your back .you will follow the similar step bending your knees and keeping your arms forward just above your tummy while your hands are clasped . The direction of rolling for the first phase is back and forth and up and down . In the second phase you will tilt your both arms to one side of your tummy  and continue the rhythmic movement . This movement exposes your deep muscles and there is more deeper pressure directly on the muscles than the spine .You  repeat the same on both the sides for 5-15 mins based on your tolerance level .

3. Hip and anterior thigh pain release 

Hip muscles and thighs get sore usually if you suddenly do activities like running and walking or those intense cardio workouts . If these are the activities that you enjoy regularly , then you definitely  need to make sure you are releasing these muscles to avoid secondary pain on your hips and thighs .

Position yourself over the foam roll so that the side of your hip is in contact with the foam roll, knee straight ,while the side of your foot is gently rested on the floor.Your other foot is placed at mid point area exactly in front of the contralateral knee . Once you get this starting  position you can start rolling your IT- bands on the side. Remember you are going to use your foot that is placed in mid position to propel up and down while you release those tissues .You  will now  turn yourself 90 deg  down so that your body  is facing parallel with  the floor. Allow the front foot to shift the support over into the inner side of your  same side knee, this knee will now become the new  point of contact with the floor as you release the anterior thigh muscles .You  can move along the entire length of the thigh to release the tension.The duration would be the same 5-15 mins .

You Don’t have to put up with your pain , Lower back pain and hip pain are very common problem and mist of those pain come from muscle stiffness, trigger bands and muscle knots that develop due to lack of sufficient blood flow .

We hear from our patients that they have put up with the pain , changed their lives and relied on medication and injections for nothing more than short term relief if they are lucky .I have been successfully helping my patient out with  hip and low back pain and we get great results .Our patients feel confident and happy to get back into enjoying  their recreational routines .

If you need further help for your ongoing pain and stiffness click HERE. If you have underlying issues that makes these steps difficult for you, click HERE  to book an appointment with one of our professionals or give us a call at 905-457-7475 , and let us help you.

 We are here to help

Robert Kappes, Registered Physiotherapist

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  • Article written by Bimala Odari Registered Physiotherapist