What is foam rolling and how can it decrease muscle and joint pain?

Foam rollers are great tools to decrease muscle and joint pain. It has made a positive difference on how I feel everyday. Let me start at the beginning how I got introduced to a foam roller. I had no idea what it was or what it even looked like, but I found out fast that it would change my life for the better.

Let me begin...I'm 4'-10" tall and an adult. I, of course needed to be able to look at my clients in the eye if I wanted to be taken seriously in the business world, so in came the 3" heels. Oh, how I loved the look of these little miracles. They made my business suits look so put together and yeah... it helped my vertically challenged body look like I was a giant! 15 years later of wearing heels EVERYDAY and add sitting in an office chair for 8-9 hours a day, things started to shift.

My posture was out of alignment big time. I had lumbar lordosis in my spine and pelvis by wearing high heel shoes. As I was getting older, I was starting to get back pain. That's when I started working out with a personal trainer and was soon feeling strong by doing strength training. However, a couple years later I went to get a personal training certification myself and stopped training.

As I attended classes, my back pain was getting worse. I decided to see a doctor and then another and another... you get the idea. I had x-rays and MRI's done and all I was told, "Everything looks fine, just keep doing what your doing..." or and "You're almost 40 years old, back pain is common for people your age..." Umm, why would I keep doing what I have been doing, if what I have been doing is causing my back pain?! Now that didn't make sense! AND I wasn't even 40 yet at the time and thought what I am going to feel like when I'm 50 or 60??? This was unacceptable to me.

What I didn't realize and no one told me was that my muscles had gotten very tight and were tugging on my joints and ligaments. With my body being out of alignment from the heels, topped with a decrease of exercise, my muscles increased in tightness by the day and so was the back pain.

I stumbled upon a Tia Chi home workout program that claimed to improve my core strength and help with all sorts of pain. It also came with this foam roller thing, that I had no idea what to do with. I started the program and the instructor showed how to use the foam roller. I used it for the first time and OMG, the pain while foam rolling for the first time was crazy, but when I was done rolling my back pain subsided. What was this thing??!! I hate it, but I love it!

How the foam roller works...

There are two types of fascia in our body which is a sheet of connective tissue under skin that covers muscle tissue:

Superficial Fascia which provides shock absorption, insulation and regulates fluids.

Deep Fascia compartmentalizes the entire muscular system, thickens in response to stress and contributes to maintenance of posture and movement.

When we have a muscle strain or injury, the fascia will get restricted and will affect our range of motion. The fascia will get inflamed and start to pull on our nerves causing pain and discomfort. Foam rolling is another form of releasing any trigger points or "snags" that the fascia may be experiencing.

Consistency is key because muscles have memory and if you just roll or stretch out once a week, your muscles want to tighten up again and go back to how it used to be. Daily rolling and stretching will keep the muscle and fascia pliable and in a loose state that will allow more fluid movements which = less pain.

If you're a beginner, start with the smooth surfaced roller then slowly move yourself to the rollers with the nubs and later the Rumble Roller for deep tissue rolling. When you notice that you are not feeling any benefits from the smooth roller anymore, you know you've graduated and its time to move to a more serious roller. Make sure you drink lots of water during the day after rolling. Our fascia is made up 70-80% water which allows the layers to glide over each other easily. If we don't stay hydrated, then the fascia will not be elastic and stretchable.

Foam rolling may feel awkward at first, but stick with it and be consistent. Stretching and foam rolling should be treated like a workout, try not to skip and make it a routine. it's an inexpensive tool with great benefits. Practicing daily is key and you will feel a decrease with any daily pain you my be experience and notice you are more flexible as well. Just keep on rolling...

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