If you have problems with muscle stiffness and pain or if you're recovering from a sports injury, your physical therapist might add foam rolling to your treatment plan. Foam rolling is a type of trigger point massage that you can do by yourself or under the supervision of a physical therapist. If you're new to foam rolling and have an injury or medical condition, it's good to get guidance from a physical therapist so you don't make your injury worse by foam rolling the wrong way. Here are some tips for using a foam roller.
Start With A Soft Roller
When you start foam rolling in physical therapy, the therapist may start with a soft roller so you get used to the sensation of trigger point massage. A stiffer roller might be too painful until your muscles have loosened up some. Your therapist can also advise you on the type of roller to buy to use between therapy visits.
Foam rollers are made of stiff foam like pool noodles are made from. However, rollers are much wider and shorter than a pool noodle. They can be soft or very stiff. The stiff ones may have bumps on them that dig deeper into your muscles to relieve knots. Some rollers even vibrate, and that can help with muscle relaxation.
Learn Proper Technique
You can buy a foam roller yourself and begin using it at home, but when you have an injury or chronic pain, it's important to learn how to use the roller properly first. For instance, it's best to avoid the knee joint, so the roller is used above the knee and below it while not rolling directly over the knee.
When you learn how to foam roll in physical therapy, you'll learn how to position yourself properly on the roller, and you'll learn how to control the pressure you apply so you get effective results without causing too much pain. A therapist can show you how to use the roller on all of your major muscle groups so you can give yourself a full-body massage.
Another point to know about foam rolling is that it can be done prior to working out. Rolling your muscles has a different effect than stretching, which may not be recommended as a warm-up activity. However, you can combine rolling and stretching after your workout if your therapist says it's okay to do so.
Enjoy The Benefits
The whole purpose of foam rolling is so you can enjoy the benefits of myofascial release that come from deep, trigger point massages. By releasing knots in your muscles, you might experience less pain and recover quicker after your workout. Plus, rolling might help improve your joint range of motion, too, by relaxing the muscles that control your joints.
You may find foam rolling is an enjoyable form of self-care you can add to your fitness routine. If you don't want to foam roll by yourself at home, then taking physical therapy sessions that include foam rolling with other treatments might help speed your recovery and reduce your pain.