If you use the right technique, a foam roller can really help.
“When done regularly, foam rolling unties the knots in your muscles by breaking down scar tissue and helping to heal the tissue,”says Michael Budlender owner of Caulfield Family Chiropractic.
It not only prepares your body for the stresses of a workout, but it also relieves aches and prevents them from coming back, he says.
So, what hurts?
Keep reading to find your foam rolling fix for common aches. (Of course, if the pain persists or continues to get worse, see a one of the chiropractors at Caulfield Family Chiropractic. Foam rolling might feel uncomfortable at first, but that means the muscle needs rolling. The more you do it, the less discomfort you’ll feel.
If your low back hurts, foam roll your glutes.
Why? “If your glutes are really stiff, you’re forced to bend at your waist instead,” explains Budlender. “This puts pressure on your lower back—especially if weight is added during an exercise—and leads to pain and injury over time.”
Sitting at your desk, in your car, or on your couch all day can cause the muscles of your upper back to stiffen, leading to poor posture, weak shoulders, and upper-back pain. To relieve the chronic tightness or sharp pain between your shoulder blades, try this foam rolling trick: As you roll along your upper back, keep your elbows squeezed together in front of your face, suggests Budlender. This gets your shoulder blades out of the way, exposing the tight muscles you really want to work.
If your heel hurts—especially if you feel pain during the first few steps you take after you wake up—you may have plantar fasciitis, says Dr Charif, Chiropractor at Caulfield Family Chiropractic. The plantar fascia is a band of fiber that runs along the bottom of your foot and attaches at your heel, and it can easily become inflamed.
SHOULDER PAIN (BACK SIDE)
The average person tends to focus on the deltoids, the rounded muscles that cap the upper arms. But that means they forget the smaller stabilizing muscles in the back of the shoulder joint. This can lead to a strength imbalance and pain.”That’s why you’ll feel a lot of junk there when you place a foam roller against the back of the shoulder,” says Dr Charif. But rather than moving your entire body against the roller to dig into tough spots, keep the roller in place at the back of your shoulder and move your arm instead. “Rotating your arm around the roller helps relieve the buildup,” he says.
SHOULDER PAIN (FRONT SIDE)
Your shoulder is the most complex and unstable joint in your body—so it’s typically one of the first places to get hurt. Using a roller to massage the small muscles in the joint can keep the tissues healthy and prevent injury in the long run. Try this: When foam rolling, search for a tight spot that feels like a marble in your chest near your shoulder. “You might have a bit of a tingling feeling, which is OK, but avoid any spots that feel like a nerve radiating,” Charif says.
Shin splints are most commonly caused by an inflammation of the sheath surrounding the tibia bone, and are usually due to running on hard surfaces or jumping. Do You Suffer from Shin Splints? “This exercise is great for runners,” says Jackie, myotherapist at Caulfield Family Chiropractic “Anybody who is familiar with shin splints will thank you for showing this rolling exercise to them. Foam rolling releases the inflammation around the bone.” One word of caution: If your shin splints are caused by stress fractures, you should avoid this exercise, she advises.
ACHILLES TENDON PAIN
If the bottom of your calf bothers you, limited ankle mobility might be the culprit, says Jackie. This exercise will help break up restrictions in your calf. Plus, it might save you from back pain in the future. The reason: The tighter your ankles, the more your back has to flex to compensate during a squat. When your lower back is rounded, it’s more susceptible to injuries like bulged discs.
Poor stability in your hip joint can cause your iliotibial (IT) band to overcompensate during exercise, leading to knee pain. In an attempt to minimize the pain, many people foam roll the wide strip of tendon on the outside of their thigh in hopes of loosening it. However, the IT band is like a chunk of leather, and it could take hours of foam rolling it to make any difference. If your knees hurt, try rolling the inside of your thigh instead, suggests Jackie. This can help reduce any inflammation in the muscles that pull on the knee joint.