Contributed by: Shellie Billingsley, NASM-CPT, NPTI

You may have seen people laying on long cylinder-shaped pieces of foam and wondered, “What in the world are they doing on them?” These dense pieces of equipment are called foam-rollers and are very beneficial for almost everyone. It is a great tool to use both before and after exercise, but first you’ll need to understand what self-myofascial release is and learn the science behind foam-rolling.

First, self-myofascial release is a technique that basically means “self-massage.” When you go to a masseuse, this person kneads the skin which ultimately stretches and puts pressure points on some of the muscle fibers which helps relieve you of any knots or tightness. Foam-rollers are tools that allow you to do this self-massage yourself by laying on it and creating pressure on a knot with your own body weight. You can massage major muscle groups and relieve yourself of any restrictions in that area.

So how does this self-massage relieve the tension in the muscles? Our muscles get “adhesions or knots” of muscle fibers in a bundled position. When you create pressure on an adhesion, it allows it to smooth out and go back into alignment in the direction of the muscle. This helps restore the body back into its most effective level of function by correcting muscle imbalances.

Why are muscle imbalances a problem? Well, let’s say for instance that a person has very tight calves and is going to be squatting in their exercise routine. When we squat, our calves need to lengthen and stretch so that we can sit back into our heels. If the calves are tight, a person will want to squat on their toes thus forcing pressure towards the knees. Foam-rolling can relieve the calf of any adhesions and allow a person to squat correctly and reduce the risk of injury or joint pain.

Consequently, self-myofascial release is necessary before a workout and can also be done afterwards. Talk to a health and fitness professional to learn how to correctly use a foam-roller and allow this tool to help you move and feel better throughout your workout.

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