What if I said you could have a free massage every day of your life? Amazing, right? Unfortunately, I doubt any massage therapist will give you the deal of a lifetime, so I recommend heading straight to your local running or sporting goods store to pick up your new best friend – the foam roller.
What Is Fascia?
Fascia is a very densely woven tissue similar to a spider’s web that covers and interpenetrates every muscle, bone, nerve, artery, internal organ, and even your brain. Up until recently, physicians didn’t think much about this tissue.
A foam roller is just as it sounds – a tube-like device constructed of solid foam. Self-myofascial release, or self-massage, uses a foam roller to alleviate muscle tightness or trigger points.
While there is still a lot we don’t know about fascia, we do know that it plays a major role in the support and function of our bodies. In healthy bodies, fascia tissue is relaxed and flexible. However, after trauma, like a sports injury or car accident, fascia loses its flexibility and becomes tight and restricted leading to tension and pain in your body.
By rolling your muscles across a foam roller, you can help break up tension and keep your fascia flexible and relaxed. Not only will it help prevent future fitness-related injuries, but foam rolling has numerous benefits for your body. Let’s look at five benefits of foam rolling and why you should add it to your gym routine today.
Major Benefits of Foam Rolling
1. Break Up Scar Tissue
Chances are you have scar tissue from old injuries throughout your body. You might not remember that fall from your bicycle when you were three years old, but your body does. Scars are tissue adhesions that form in the body after trauma and can affect your skin, muscles, ligaments, tendons, and fascia tissues.
Scars in our fascia tissue can upset normal movement. Fascia tissue is designed to move smoothly with muscles, but if scars are present, then movement can be disrupted and limited. Foam rolling places targeted pressure on your fascia and releases trigger points where you’re feeling pain. Eventually, with regular foam rolling, you’ll start to break up the scar tissue and regain normal movement.
2. Improve Circulation
The action of rolling the foam roller across your various muscles helps stimulate your lymphatic and circulatory systems. In return, you get better oxygen delivery to your cells that helps with recovery and rejuvenation.
3. Increase tissue mobility
Your muscles and fascia tissues are made to be mobile and functional. Unfortunately over time, due to injuries and lifestyle choices, we start to lose mobility. By doing regular foam rolling sessions, you’ll help keep those tissues mobile, which might prevent some old injuries from popping up during your workouts when you thought you were fine.
For example, many runners have suffered from injuries like IT Band Syndrome, Plantar Fasciitis, and tight hamstrings. Many of these injuries are traced back to poor tissue mobility. Foam rolling can help break up these old scars and keep those areas mobile and flexible.
4. Increase Performance
Flexibility can be a double-edged sword depending on your sport of choice. Everyone can benefit from normal range of motion of joints and muscle. Unfortunately, due to lifestyle choices like desk jobs and previous injuries, a majority of people do not have full range of motion. The more flexible your muscles are within the normal range of motion, the more power they can produce.
To increase your range of motion, foam roll before you begin your workout. Skip the static stretching despite what you were taught in gym class because research studies have shown that static stretching can decrease your performance. However, a recent study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research indicates that foam rolling before a workout can dramatically increase your range of motion without decreasing your performance.
5. Save Money
Massage is expensive. Sure, it feels great, but it is probably not so great for your wallet. Foam rolling is a great “Poor (wo)man’s massage.” All you have to purchase is a foam roller that will set you back about $20-$60 depending on the quality and type of foam roller you choose to buy. Most gyms these days also have foam rollers in the stretching area.
There are many benefits of foam rolling. While it would be amazing to have a massage on a daily basis, none of us can afford that until we’ve won the lottery. So in the meantime, purchase a foam roller from your local running or sporting goods store and use it every day. Your body will thank you.