Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Foam Roller

You may have seen foam rollers at the gym. They are about six inches in diameter and one and a half or three feet in length. I love placing them below my back on a mat, lifting my hips, and rolling up and down to give myself a back massage. Foam rollers are used like this in self-myofascial release (SMR). The fascia is a connective tissue that encases muscles, joints, blood vessels and nerves. The muscles and fascia make up the myofascial system. When you work out, muscles, joints, fascia and nerves may feel tense. A great way to release this tension, and save on some massage bills, is to use a foam roller.

This concept of autogenic inhibition is used to improve soft tissue extensibility; the muscle is relaxed and the antagonist muscle is activated. (Gossman et al. 1982) Foam rollers can be used on the back muscles such as the latissimus dorsi, quadriceps, hamstrings, adductors, abductors, calves and gluteus maximus muscles. Soft tissue adhesions and scar tissue are broken down. Flexibility and range of motion may be improved. Iliotibial band syndrome may be alleviated. Press on the tender areas for 10 or more seconds and breathe throughout the movement. Apply more pressure when you exhale. Relax and repeat until pain and tension are reduced. Drink plenty of water after using a foam roller. Skip a day between using it on a particular area. If you have a severe injury, this will not take the place of physical therapist or physician care. Contact a physician before using a foam roller. To view how to use the foam roller for SMR, see

Disclaimer: None of the above information can be taken as a substitute for advice from a medical professional such as a physician.

My third book, Pocket Guide to Fitness, is available on,, and If you look up my name on those Web sites, you will find my other books The Boy in a Wheelchair and Life, Work and Play: Poems and Short Stories. 

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