Foam rollers are really useful pieces of gym and training equipment that can be used in many different ways. They come in many different sizes, lengths, textures and firmness that make it easy to choose which one you need depending on what you are wanting to use it for.
Traditionally, foam rollers are most commonly used for self myofascial release techniques, which basically means self massage to relieve tightness, pain and increase blood flow. This is extremely handy in between treatments for pain management, following strenuous exercise or prolonged periods of immobility, or as a warm up or cool down for exercise.
Rollers can also be used for stretching and increasing range of motion. There are many exercises that use the rollers to help get further in a stretch by pressing on the roller or by using it as a bolster to increase your range of motion over. Many Clinical Pilates exercises also incorporate the use of a roller as it adds an element of instability to the exercise to increase the demand on the core and rest of the body.
Which roller is for me?
As there are many different types of rollers on the market, it can make it really confusing to choose which one is best for you. If you are just starting out, I would normally recommend a soft-medium roller with a smooth texture. I always recommend a full length roller as they are much more versatile than the shorter ones. As you continue to use it some people find that they can tolerate the pressure more easily and progress to a firmer roller, however this really depends on the frequency of which you use it. The softer ones are also much better to use for stretching and Pilates based exercises as they are more gentle on your spine when you are lying directly on it.
Are foam rollers safe?
Generally, foam rollers are extremely safe, effective tools to use at home when used correctly. Always ask your practitioner if you have any questions before using one if you are concerned, especially if you have a specific injury that you are trying to manage. The general rule is to feel an easily tolerated level of discomfort, not pain, especially if it’s in the spine. Normally the first few times you use it will feel quite intense, and if that is the case, please be aware of how long you use it for.
How often do you have to use it to get results?
Normally foam rolling is recommended to include into your normal exercise routine as a warm up/cool down to help increase blood flow and mobility. However if you are a desk worker or spend long periods of time in the same position then you may like to use it daily as part of your normal stretching routine. If you are rolling over a muscle, a good time frame to aim for is 30-60 seconds in each area. If you are holding a stretch aim to hold for a minimum of 20-30 seconds, or until an ease is felt.
How do I actually use it?
A few weeks ago we put together a series of exercises which includes a balance of muscle rolling, stretching and mobility techniques, and we have added a link below. The whole series goes for just over 15 minutes so it is a great series to add in before or after exercise, or even just after a day’s work. Please remember to watch for any pain and stop if it has too much discomfort and ask us if you have any questions before starting to use it!