Benefits of Foam Rolling

What is a Trigger Point?

Trigger points are a small patch of muscle tissue in spasm, and they can occur for a number of reasons. When we develop aches and pains, our bodies automatically avoid using muscles that create the pain and start using other muscles a greater amount of the time. This is called a “compensation pattern”, which allows the pain to decrease for a period of time. Unfortunately, this causes increased stress on the muscles that are being used more than usual, and they can develop trigger points because of this increased stress. Other reasons that people may develop trigger points is because of prolonged postures, and repetitive stress to a body part from work or recreational activities. Once trigger points are formed, they can cause pain at and around the area where they are located. Healthy muscles usually do not contain knots, are not tender to pressure, and when relaxed they feel soft and pliable to the touch. Areas in the muscles that contain trigger points feel hard and dense when you run your fingers over it.

How Do You Treat Trigger Points?

The best way to get rid of trigger points is by performing trigger point release techniques. Applying pressure to the central location of a trigger point helps to break up the spasm, and in turn, decreases the pain that it may be creating. This technique may increase pain as the pressure is being applied, but will ultimately decrease the day-to-day pain experienced overall. Finding a physical therapist that specializes in these techniques is the best way to decrease trigger points, while also creating an individualized exercise program to further enhance the recovery process.

What Does a Foam Roller Do?

Foam rollers are a great way to start breaking up the trigger points on the surface of your muscles. They are relatively inexpensive, and they come in different sizes, which make it easy find one that fits best into your life and schedule. Foam rollers are also smooth, or have bumps on them, which help reach deeper muscles. Foam rollers with bumps will most likely benefit people the most, however if you find you are unable to tolerate this version, the smooth foam roller is your best option. In order to foam roll properly, apply moderate pressure to a specific muscle or muscle group using the roller and your bodyweight. You should roll slowly, no more than one inch per second. When you find areas that are tight or painful, pause for several seconds and relax as much as possible. You should slowly start to feel the muscle releasing, and after 5-30 seconds the discomfort or pain should lessen. As mentioned before, initially breaking up this tissue knot may elicit some discomfort, however this should decrease over time if you are consistently using a foam roller throughout your day.

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