Relieve Sore Muscles Through Foam Rolling

There are a lot of things that can bring on muscle tension and soreness—from an especially tough workout to poor posture to simply going through your daily routine—there are many options to help relieve it. Classic methods like stretching after a workout and for extra tender muscles or minor injuries ice packs can help, but there’s another one you should definitely try if you haven’t yet: foam rolling.

Foam rolling is a tool to help with myofascial release (a way to break up stiff areas in the connective tissues surrounding your muscles). It’s an inexpensive, DIY way to help your muscles feel better, improve athletic performance, increase your flexibility and cut recovery time after a workout. It’s also a type of physical self-care that promotes proper maintenance of your body. But before you get started, there are a few things you need to know:

How to Choose a Roller

There are three main considerations to make when choosing a foam roller: density, surface texture and size.

  1. Density: This determines how effective a roller is at deep-tissue massage. A roller with soft density may not provide enough pressure, but a roller with high density can be too painful to use. For beginners, start on the softer side and then work your way up to a denser roller for more intense, targeted pressure. Tip: If you’re at the gym and the foam rollers are not labeled by density, squeeze the rollers to assess their relative firmness.
  2. Surface Texture: There are smooth rollers and textured rollers, and both serve different purposes. The smooth roller is great for people just trying foam rolling, whereas the textured roller has ridges or bumps that can target specific knots.
  3. Size: Foam rollers can come in many lengths, diameters and shapes. Longer rollers are good for beginners because they work well on almost every part of your body. Short rollers are good for focusing on smaller areas like arms and calves. The smaller the diameter, the more targeted the massage will be.

When to Use It

You can foam roll anytime. In fact, the more often you use your foam roller, the more you get used to the pressure and the better it will feel. Do it daily to help reduce muscle pain, increase range of motion, and delay muscle soreness after exercise. You can do it immediately following a tough workout or at the end of each day before going to bed—whenever works with your schedule.

Simply position the roller under the portion of your body needing relief and let the weight of your body push down on the roller. Then slowly roll back and forth. Foam roll a muscle for up to 90 seconds, then take a break and repeat. Here are a few other ways to use your foam roller. If you find yourself in severe pain while rolling, stop what you’re doing. Foam rolling should be uncomfortable, but not painful.

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