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Saturday, May 24, 2014

Foam Rollers: Do's & Don'ts 101: Part I

You may have heard of them, seen them lying around in the gym and you may have even seen people using them. Do always do what you see others doing because more than half the time people are doing the wrong thing in the gym. It's like a monkey see, monkey do kinda thing. I've seen people using foam rollers in the gym and sometimes I want to tear my hair off and beg them to stop. In my industry you learn that not everyone wants your advice no matter how right you are. The National Academy of Sports Medicine recently wrote and article on whether or not it's good to Foam Roll on your lower back. 
So what is the purpose of Foam Rolling? The answer: The purpose of Foam Rolling is to relieve muscle tension popularly called knots in the muscle and to relieve muscle pain. Benefits of Foam Rolling include increased flexibility, function and performance of the muscles but can also help reduce injury by directly releasing muscle tension.
Be careful when searching through Google to find guides on how to use foam rollers and even when searching on YouTube. You will find explanations but not everyone showing you how to use them is actually telling you the right thing. 
Below is a list of the benefits of using a Foam Roller for Self-Myofascial Release:

Benefits of Self-Myofascial Release

• Corrects muscle imbalances
• Improves joint range of motion
• Relieves muscle soreness and joint stress
• Decreases neuromuscular hypertonicity
• Increases extensibility of musculotendinous junction
• Improves neuromuscular efficiency
• Maintains normal functional muscular length

So before we talk more about how to use a Foam Roller properly let's first discuss whether or not Foam Rolling is good for use on your back. Most importantly take my advice and don't use a Foam Roller unless you absolutely understand how, what, why and when's about Foam Rolling. Make sure you first understand the cause of your back pain. Avoid self-diagnoses if it is not your profession. Don't take the advice of someone who is not a professional in the field of health and fitness or sports performance. Okay, now that we cleared that up let's talk about Foam Rolling and your lower back. While Foam Rolling may help reduce some pain if the underlying cause of lower back pain is not addressed, you aren't really doing anything to solve the problem. It's like placing a bandage on a cut, it covers the problem but it doesn't solve it. I found one key paragraph which really pointed out why it is ill advised to use a Foam Roller on your lower back. This is what Kyle Stull had to say in the NASM article, "If an individual does as is taught (about proper use of Foam Rollers) and does try to relax then they essentially just lay across the roll and force even more of an arch in their low back along with applying excessive pressure on the lumbar spine and the discs that separate them. Therefore, this ultimately aggravates the mechanical position that caused the low back pain in the first place". Here is another important point Stull mentioned that I haven't mentioned yet, "Areas the foam roll is used should have bony protection for organs. For example, when rolling the chest, there is no danger to the heart because the rib cage provides adequate protection. In the low back, there are the kidneys and the liver, which have little to no bony protection (Newton, 1998). While they may be protected by large muscles, it is still considered an endangerment site, especially when using body weight compression across such a large object.
So the moral of the story is first find out what the problem is by speaking to a professional. Address the root of your lower back problem and use the advice of a professional to help you solve the underlying cause before doing anything. 

To read more on the original article go to the NASM website: Should Your Foam Roll the Lower Back
If you wish to purchase a Foam Roller you can click on the picture above or follow this link: Foam Roller