INJURY PREVENTION & RECOVERY
Use Your Foam Roller the Right Way
Don’t overdo it with the self-massage tool.
By Carl Leivers
Despite the foam roller’s popularity, Richard Hansen, a Boulder, Colorado-based sports chiropractor, says it “shouldn’t be considered the silver bullet for at-home therapy.” Hansen, who treats recreational runners as well as Olympians, warns that incorrect use may cause muscle damage.
Follow these guidelines to use the foam roller safely and effectively:
Roll For Recovery, Not to Treat Injuries
Rolling an injured area can aggravate damaged muscle tissue, particularly in the first few days after the injury. The foam roller is more effective at assisting recovery. It stimulates blood flow, breaks up scar tissue, and helps increase the muscle’s range of motion.
Keep It Light
Aggressive foam roller use may feel good, but it can override your pain sensation. When that happens, it’s possible to use too much pressure or work too long on a particular muscle. “Just because it hurts doesn’t mean it’s more effective,” Hansen says. “It’s better to underwork tissue than overwork it.” Make sure to avoid bony areas and places where tendons attach. If you’re dealing with IT band syndrome, focus on the middle, not the insertion points of the knee and hip tendons.
Hansen recommends using the foam roller after your workout, rather than before. Begin by lightly foam rolling an area for 30 seconds, then gently stretch the area for 10 seconds. You can repeat that cycle up to three times on each body area. Hansen says that the foam roller should be just one piece of your recovery process, not your only “go-to” technique.