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A Field Guide to Foam Rollers

Justin Goehl, DC, MS

A green foam roller isolated on white with natural shadows. Foam

Any regular gym goer has come to encounter the dreaded “stretching area,” filled with mats, bands, machines, and those odd cylindrical objects that mimic modern torture devices. Those cylindrical objects are foam rollers, coming in different shapes, sizes, textures, and materials. Let’s learn a little bit more about these devices and how they fit into your current exercise routine:

Types: Foam rollers can be made of foam, PVC piping, or hard rubber material and offer various textures. Different levels of firmness determine the intensity and type of therapy one receives.

Benefits: Best performed post physical activity as flexibility training and cool-down, foam rolling can decrease muscle soreness, including Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) which can occur 24-72 hours post strenuous physical activity.

How it works: Foam rolling is a soft tissue treatment for trigger points (painful spots in the muscle) and tight muscles using a release technique similar to that of massage. Rolling targets fascia, the connective covering of your muscles, to break up any adhesions and increase blood flow to the area, decreasing pain while improving flexibility and overall function.

Best Practices: The intensity of the exercise is completely controlled by the amount of weight you apply to the area while rolling. Use upper and lower body strength to regulate. When rolling, focus on slow controlled movements that reach the entire length or width of the muscle.

With these tips and a little bit of practice, you are ready to navigate the once scary stretching area with ease.

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