Has anyone seen a 3-foot long foam roll in their gym and wonder what the heck it's for? Have you witnessed other men or women rolling around, grimacing and wincing in pain as they heave their bodies up and down the thing? It sometimes just doesn't look right, you know what I mean? I'm here to tell you that the 3-foot long foam roll (usually blue or white and 6 inches in diameter) can actually be your best friend if you exercise frequently or deal with a lot of injuries or stiffness in your joints and muscles.
The foam roller is part of a very useful fitness and exercise routine and is clinically called "Self-Myofascial Release (SMR)". Think of it like you're kneading bread: you put your flour in, your eggs, your milk, whatever, and at first it's clumpy and lumpy; you get it all mixed together and begin kneading to smooth it out and get ready for baking. Well, your muscles can get lumpy, too, particularly if you are active or have joint issues. Typically, muscles will knot up around tendon insertion points where stress hits hardest. These areas are typically the most tender when you first begin foam-rolling but, over time, should become less sensitive. If you don't properly stretch or relieve these stress-points your tissues and joints can break down over time (if they haven't already).
The foam roller, or SMR, can be used to reduce inflammation and injuries, increase flexibility and function, as well as simply stretch out strained and tired muscle fibers. I had one client recently tell me that she had experienced numbness and irritation in her left hip but through proper SMR and stretching she alleviated these issues and is now symptom-free. Other clients I've worked with and introduced the foam roller to have reported decreased back and shoulder pain as well as knee and ankle pain/swelling. Personally, I've utilized the foam roller for patellar tendonitis and it has helped tremendously with pain and performance. If you don't believe me than I recommend you go to your Chiropractor, Doctor or Physical Therapist and ask about SMR...or if you're at home you can simply type in Self-Myofascial Release into Google and you'll get a million+ hits. Also, check out this link http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x7rv5i_it-band-self-myofascial-release-tfl_lifestyle to see a specific example or just go to www.dailymotion.com for more ideas.
The foam roller can come in many shapes and sizes but typically you'll find 3-footers in your gym (I recommend that the firmer you can get the better). If you'd like to learn more about this training technique and how to use the foam roller please don't hesitate to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or ask me in person.