Posted by: teejford | April 3, 2008

Body in Focus: The skinny on foam rollers

I’ve seen and heard a lot about foam rollers lately, and some of my running friends and clients swear by them. I admit that as a massage therapist I’m still a little unsure of them. After all, they could put me out of business!

Not really, of course, any more than those “massage barcaloungers” are going to put me or any of my colleagues out of work. There is simply no substitute for educated touch. My issue is more that people will use these tools as a Bandaid whenever they are hurt or in pain. And that can be dangerous. If something hurts or is injured, and you think you know what’s wrong, and you use the roller thinking it will “fix” the problem, you could be causing yourself more damage. The rollers are NOT a cure for a self-diagnosed injury.

A little background on these rollers – they are simple, really, just a tube, usually one or three feet long and about 6 inches in diameter. You place the roller on the floor and then lay yourself over it on the body part you are trying to stretch. So for the IT Band, you would lie on your side with the roller under your thigh. Then you roll yourself back and forth over the foam. This can often be painful, so you need to adjust your body weight accordingly so that it’s a “hurts good” feeling, not torture. See the photo below for an example:

Foam Roller

This picture is taken from www.performbetter.com website, where they sell the rollers for as little as $9.95.

Danielle Machon, a licensed massage therapist who is the owner of M’saj & Bodywork in downtown Portland, encourages her clients to use the rollers as a preventative tool. “It takes a little getting used to rolling on the floor and keeping good body position. And because we are all a little anatomically different, it’s important to feel comfortable trying some slightly different angles to hit the spots where you are feeling tightness.”

In other words, kids, don’t try this without adult supervision.

Seriously, though, she’s right – this takes some finesse and experimentation and direction. How many of us dive into something without really reading the instructions? And then, frustrated because it doesn’t seem to be working, we toss it aside with a few choice words about its worthlessness. Or worse, we hurt ourselves in the process. So to avoid that, if you want to use the rollers, go for it. But let your massage therapist, trainer, or physical therapist show you how it’s done. And it’s probably not a bad idea to shell out the extra money for the instructional videos that are offered.

But most important, listen to your body. And if something continues to hurt, or injuries keep recurring, please get yourself to a chiropractor or massage therapist for a full evaluation and assessment. Sometimes injuries can just be hiding an underlying structural or biomechanical issue that needs to be dealt with in order to prevent further, possibly more debilitating injuries.

TJ Ford, Portland Oregon USA
for Running Advice and News
http://www.running-advice.com

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