A foam roller is a tool that allows one to perform general joint and self-soft tissue mobilizations to certain areas of the body. Various studies have shown that foam rolling may have multiple benefits including short-term pain relief and improved range of motion without a decrease in muscle strength.
When to use a foam roller:
For enhanced benefit, use a foam roller prior to, but in combination with, static stretching to improve range of motion. Follow this up with a dynamic activity in an effort to train the muscles in a new range of motion, with less pain, helping to make the effects of foam rolling more long-term.
For pain related to delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), perform foam rolling immediately following activity, 24 hours, and 48 hours later.
How to use a foam roller:
For general soft tissue and joint mobilizations, position roller, as pictured, and begin moving around until a tender spot is located. Once you find a sore spot, maintain pressure on this spot for about 60-90 seconds until the pain subsides. Then continue rolling until you find another tender spot.
If using the foam roller to help prevent or minimize the effects of DOMS, perform 2 sets of 45-60 seconds, rolling back and forth across each muscle belly/area used during the workout. Below, check out some references regarding the benefits of foam rolling to treat yourself and keep you active.
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Mathis Physical Therapy and Hand Center