The Blessed Foam Roller

Today’s society is plagued by postural imbalances, primarily due to sedentary lifestyles caused by advancements in technology. More people today are spending time in office-related jobs, which require individuals to sit for long hours. More than ever before, flexibility training has become key. Flexibility training may decrease the occurrences of muscle imbalances, joint dysfunctions and overuse injuries.

Most of my clients would sincerely affirm the need for improved flexibility in their own life. But when I break out the foam roller during our sessions there is often a sudden change in mood. “Pain is coming!” “Time for torture”! What is there to be afraid of? I mean, its just foam. Seriously! But despite the lack of enthusiasm, using a foam roller to increase flexibility is a painful blessing that leads to glorious results.

When we think of stretching what usually comes to mind is what we call “static” stretching. This is the traditional form of stretching that is most often seen in fitness today. Static stretching is the process of passively taking a muscle to the point of tension and holding the stretch for a minimum of 20-30 seconds.

None of my clients seem to fear static stretching. But the foam roller? Well, now that’s another story.

The foam roller is used for self-myofascial release. This is a stretching technique that focuses on the neural system and fascial system in the body (or the fibrous tissue that surrounds and separates muscle tissue). By applying gentle force to an adhesion or “knot,” the elastic muscle fibers are altered from a bundled position (that causes the adhesion) into a straighter alignment with the direction of the muscle. The gentle pressure of the roller will stimulate the Golgi tendon organ and create autogenic inhibition, decreasing muscle spindle excitation and releasing the hypertonicity of the underlying musculature.

Basically, your muscle fibers are tight. Often the tightness is so tight and so deep within your tissue that you hardly notice until it becomes severe. By applying pressure from the roller, the muscle fibers decrease in tension. And as a result, you will not only experience greater range of motion, but also improved blood circulation, improved posture and far less muscle cramping.

Now go torture yourself with a foam roller, and enjoy it!

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