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Fun with a foam roller – post by Katie Bell

What is it? What do I do with it? And why does it help me?

Katie Bell Principal Physiotherapists explains all.

A foam roller is exactly what it says –a cylindrical shaped piece of foam, which comes in varying density and can be smooth or have knobbly bits sticking out of it!

In recent years the use of a foam roller has grown as athletes, coaches, professionals, health professionals have recognised its use and effectiveness in releasing tight tissue.

Health professionals talk about ‘fascia’ more than muscles. Fascia is connective tissue, it surrounds everything in our body. Organs, bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments….everything! Fascia is very thin but fibrous and strong.

When fascia becomes thickened or builds up adhesions it can be more like candy floss – which if you imagine putting a lovely piece of muscle in the middle and coating it with the circus’s finest candy floss means the muscle cannot contract and relax properly. Therefore, the power output, range of movement and flexibility can be affected.

So, if we only focus on stretching these tissues, we are going to get limited success.

The foam roller used in the right way can be a great way to release the fascia that overlays the muscles, tendons, and ligaments.

The important things to remember when using a foam roller is:

  • Don’t use it too much! When you have used a foam roller it’s a bit like moving to a new house – everything is disrupted and needs time to let the dust settle!
  • Start with a medium density if you are new to release work. And build up. The knobbly version really should only be used with direction from a health professional first.
  • If an area is painful try and roll above and below and see if that helps reduce the pain in the area.
  • Don’t roll over bony points.
  • Drink plenty of water, as doing release work can increase the number of toxins into the blood stream.
  • You may feel a little tender after using a foam roller for the first few times – this should settle within 24-48 hours.
  • Follow a guide if you are unsure how to do it -there are lots of ways to release different areas.
  • If the pain continues, seek professional advice from a Physiotherapist.

Watch this video for a short demonstration on how to use a foam roller by Katie Bell.

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