Column: Sports Health By Cassie Beseman, CAT Lake Region Healthcare

We’ve all felt soreness after a good workout. Sometimes we feel it right away, other times it comes a day or two after. This is because we have caused our muscles to sustain tiny micro tears. These are necessary in order to reach our workout goals, but after a workout, our muscles need to heal. A great way to do this is with a foam roller.

What is a foam roller? A foam roller is a cylindrical section of foam that varies in size and firmness. Foam rolling is a technique that targets the fascia surrounding the muscles. Fascia is a protective tissue that stabilizes, encloses and separates various muscles and organs. When the fascia is not functioning properly, it can affect muscle healing as well as athletic performance. Tension and dehydration of the fascia can cause earlier fatigue as well as affect movement.

So how does a foam roller work? A foam roller works by using bodyweight resistance to massage the body and release muscular tension and tightness. You apply the pressure where it is needed most so you can effectively target muscle discomfort, adhesions and tensions while aiding your muscles in recovering after exercise. This type of treatment is called self-myofascial release — similar to a “Do It Yourself” massage — which has proven to be highly effective. It can be used on many muscular structures including, but not limited to, one’s back, quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, and the outside of the thigh. It is a highly effective tool that can be used to stretch out muscular tension or muscle discomfort.

When shopping for a foam roller, there are a few types and sizes to consider. Let’s start with the various sizes. Most foam rollers are about 6 inches in diameter but range from 12 to 36 inches long. If you’re intending to target larger muscles, a longer foam roller may be more beneficial than a shorter one; however, any length should work. The density of foam rollers ranges from a standard density to extra-firm. A standard density is good to start with for your basic aches and pains but you may need to purchase an extra-firm foam roller for more intense muscular issues. There are also many different foam roller surface textures that are available. You can purchase a foam roller with a smooth, textured, duplex, bumped or finger-tip surface. Every texture besides the smooth one has additional ridges that will target deeper trigger points in the muscles. For individuals with less strenuous workouts or less muscular tension, a smooth surface will be perfectly fine.

As you can see, foam rollers are a great piece of equipment to aide in muscle recovery. Their use allows for a swifter recovery and enhances overall performance. A foam roller will allow you to release muscular tension and get you back to your workouts thus allowing you to achieve your exercise goals more efficiently and effectively.

Do you have a question regarding sports medicine that you would like to see addressed in this space in the future?  Send your questions to SportsMed@lrhc.org.

Cassie Beseman is a certified athletic trainer at Lake Region Healthcare.

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