April 16, 2015

How to pick the right foam roller for you.

foam rolling, overuse injuries, injury prevention, women's health, post partum, incontinence

I get a lot of questions regarding different exercise programs, home gym equipment, training methods, injury-prevention tips, treatment programs. To answer these questions and more I’m dedicating at least one blog post a month to reviews. Got something you want answered? Just let us know and we’ll get on it!

As we move along with our “Exercise with Intention” theme, our reviews will take an educational approach. There is not one way for everyone and our goal will be to help you to understanding each product and it’s purpose so you can decide which product is best for you.

So what is our inaugural product? Foam rollers!  This is a common source of confusion and I know so many people have questions. First, let’s understand the concept behind foam rolling and then we’ll look at some of the different options on the market.

Myofascial adhesions, commonly known as “scar tissue,” develop over time and are a direct contributor to overuse injuries. As muscles are used, they are constantly being damaged and healed. This is why there is such a market for “recovery supplements” which we can definitely talk about later. If muscles do not have adequate time to heal or are not provided with appropriate nutrition, formation of myofascial adhesions reach a point over time where they can weaken the muscle as a whole. This weakness can lead to injury.

Soft tissue techniques such as Active Release Technique, Graston Technique, and general myofascial release, work to break up this scar tissue and allow the muscle to heal properly. Foam rolling provides a self-guided version of these manual techniques that can target superficial parts of muscles. Foam rollers create friction and tension on a muscle and will break up superficial scar tissue while bringing vital blood and oxygen into the area. In this manner, it can help with healing as well.  The different foam rollers on the market provide varying degrees of intensity and can reach different levels of muscle. This variation in purpose also leads to variation in technique.

  1. Foam roller without texture.

Overuse injuries, foam rollerThis is a great option for beginners to get both a feel for the compression and for the technique to roll. Foam rolling takes a bit of grace! You’ll notice that this version has a smooth surface that will provide a larger surface area on which to roll. Different colors correspond to different levels of density. White has less density, followed by red, followed by black with the most. In general, the higher the density, the more intense the treatment. That being said, it is important to keep in mind the purpose of foam rolling is to break up scar tissue and also to help muscle relax. It is tough to relax if it is too painful, so shoot for a “good hurt” with foam rolling. This is not a “no pain, no gain” situation

Who it’s best for:      All levels including beginners

Where it shines:       Great for legs and shoulders

When to move on:    If you have a stubborn muscle tightness, move onto a textured foam roller.

  1. Triggerpoint foam roller.

Foam roller, trigger point roller, overuse injuries

This option is great for someone who is just beginning with foam rolling, or someone who needs a little more oomph to their roll. I have to say, I do like the educational feel that this company portrays. The orange triggerpoint foam roller was the first one I tried and the texture provides a slight therapeutic effect. The material does tend to compress a little more than it seems like it should; however, if you have some DOMS or need more mobilization through the mid back and hips this is perfect. It is more comfortable for mobilization of the mid back that we incorporate into our Module 2.1.1 than the general foam roller. The small one looks so cool but functionally, I like the big one!

Who it’s best for:      Athletes after training, mobilization of joints in mid back and hips

Where it shines:       It provides texture without overly compressing the tissues. It’s great for recovery after training and can help bring blood into the area if you are sore following activity.

When to move on:    Significant restrictions in muscles that will not respond to stretching and foam rolling without texture

  1. The Rumble Roller.

rumble roller, foam rolling, overuse injuries

I have to admit, after working through a stubborn hip issue, I became a fan. However, the challenge with the rumble roller lies in technique. The best way I have found to use the Rumble Roller is to treat it as a trigger point therapy rather than a foam rolling therapy. This means rolling at a painfully slow rate and allowing the knobs on the Rumble Roller relax into the deeper layers of the muscle. If you just roll quickly along your muscles, it will be really uncomfortable a less effective. In our Module 2.1.1, we talk about foam rolling along the quad/IT junction for IT band syndrome. The rumble roller used along this same line should take a good 2-4 minutes to roll from hip to quad one time and back. Slow and intentional is the way to make the Rumber Roller work for you.

Who it’s best for:      Individuals who need intense and deep muscle work

Where it shines:        Best for the legs and hips. It’s a bit much for the shoulder and back area.

When to move on:    Give it a good week of daily work to loosen up the muscle and other soft tissues. If you still feel a lot of restriction, along with any pain, consult a soft tissue specialist.

The key to tackling any treatment begins with a clear understanding of injuries and where they begin.  Our fantastic ebook, “Where Do Injuries Come From?” is a great starting point to making great decisions about your health.

overuse injuries, foam rolling, post partum, women's health
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