The foam roller is often the neglected piece of equipment sitting in the corner of your home somewhere. Maybe you’ve been told to use a foam roller, maybe you even tried it a couple of times.
What is often missing is the knowledge of where on the body it can be used and getting past the initial discomfort (okay, pain) that occurs when you first begin regular foam roller use.
Some people think that stretching is just as helpful as foam rolling and they’ll just do that. Both are necessary, and each serves a different purpose.
While stretching helps to warm or more make more flexible the muscles, ligaments, and tendons – it doesn’t do much for the fascia. The fascia is made up of all the additional connective tissue that holds everything together.
Many of your aches and pains are due to fascia issues, and foam rolling can help.
Usually, when I talk with someone about foam rolling, they seem to think that it’s only good for their hamstrings and IT band. If that’s all you’re using it for, you’re missing out!
We usually start patients off with a firm, smooth foam roller. When this becomes too easy, you can graduate to a textured or bumpy foam roller. Some patients will even use a similarly sized piece of PVC pipe, but I would not recommend starting there.
Start by sitting on the floor with the foam roller at your ankles and work up into your calves. You’ll find some sore spots, for sure. You can increase the pressure by crossing your legs and doing one at a time, or lessen the pressure by holding more of your body weight on your arms.
Continue on into the hamstrings, then cross one leg over the opposite knee and get into the glute and hip. You can then straighten out your legs and get into the lower, mid, and upper back.
Turn over onto your stomach and get your thighs. You can get more of your thighs by turning your feet in and out and then rolling. This will help you get more specifically the inner and outer thigh.
Lastly (and most painfully), work your IT bands and hips from a side position. This is usually the most painful, so many people stop foam rolling after feeling this. If done consistently, the pain and soreness will continue to become less of a factor every time you foam roll. If you’re inconsistent, every time will be like the first time and you’ll continue to feel pain.
I use foam rolling pre-run and even post-run to work out any areas of tightness. You’ll see improvement in post-run recovery and in range of motion if you’re foam rolling on a regular basis.