Foam-roller exercises can help relieve muscle tension.
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A foam roller can save you the time and expense of having a massage therapist work out your muscle tension and knots or trigger points. With this therapeutic aid, several upper- and lower-body rolling exercises -- referred to as self-myofascial release exercises -- can be performed to mimic a deep massage. Foam rollers are cylindrical, come in different sizes and densities, and although many are smooth, some have bumps and grooves. With daily rolling exercises, you can help prevent muscle trouble spots from occurring.
Rolling for Relief
The benefits of foam rollers are many, claims Ben Kim, doctor of chiropractic. Using your own body weight, you can control the amount of pressure you apply to a specific muscle or muscle group. Foam-roller exercises can improve the blood circulation throughout your muscles, tendons and ligaments, which allows for a better exchange of waste products and nutrients. When muscles and ligaments become short and tight or you develop a knot, roller exercises can provide a deep massage to these areas, which can lengthen the tissues and help you avoid injury.
To roll the major muscles in your lower body, start with your calves. Sit on the floor with your legs straight and put both ankles on top of your roller. Lift your hips off the floor and prop yourself up with your arms. Roll forward until the roller is just below you knees and then back to the starting position. Move the roller up to the back of your thighs to target your hamstrings. Roll back and forth from just above your knees to the just below your pelvis. Sit on top of the roller to focus on your butt muscles. Prop yourself up, keep your left foot on the floor and cross your right foot over and rest it on your left knee. Roll back and forth on your right butt cheek and then repeat with your left cheek. Turn, face down, put the roller under your thighs, prop yourself up on your forearms and roll up and back to target your quads.
Most of the upper-body exercises target your back muscles. To focus on your lower back, lie face up, place the roller under the small of your back, bend your knees and put your feet flat on the floor. With your upper body off the floor, place your hands behind your head, keep your head and neck in a neutral position and roll back and forth from your hips to just below your rib cage. Position the roller under your shoulders to target your upper back. With your hips off the floor, roll to the middle of your back and then back to your shoulders. Lie on your side and place the roller under your armpit to target your latissimus dorsi or lats. Move forward and backward to make the roller glide along the outside part of your back. Improve your spinal range of motion and focus on your rhomboids by lying lengthwise on the roller and slowly rolling side to side.
Rolling Technique and Tips
Unless instructed by your health care provider, avoid rolling over bony areas, such as your knees, and any injured or open wound area. Roll at a slow pace, back and forth, in small sections. When you roll over a muscle knot or a tight painful area, pause on top of the area for about 20 seconds or until you feel the knot relax and release. If the area is too painful to apply direct pressure, shift your position slightly, apply pressure on a nearby area and then slowly work the entire area. Just as you do after a massage, drink water after your roller session to stay hydrated.
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