Foam Rolling for Chronic Pain

For anyone who has spent time in the gym recently, the sight of exercisers lying on brightly colored “pool noodles” is probably not out of place.  Many who are perhaps less familiar with the various tools used in the world of physical fitness have found themselves confounded by this sight: What exactly are they doing?  The first point to understand in answering this question is that these pool noodle-looking devices are called foam rollers and their appearance is the only similarity they bear to the swim toy. 

Foam rolling is a technique of self-myofascial release.  A well-kept secret, it was once only known and used by professional athletes, trainers, and therapists.  Now available to the masses, the practice has quickly gained popularity as its benefits become more widely recognized.  When used appropriately, foam rolling offers improved blood circulation, lengthening of tight muscles, increased flexibility and range of motion, and pain relief.  However, in order to reap these benefits, patients must first understand how the technique works and how to use it safely.  Here are the basics:

What is Myofascial Tissue?

Discussing self-myofascial release begs the question, “What is myofascial tissue?”  Despite its importance in function, performance, and comfort of the human body, few even know that it exists.  This tough, dense tissue covers every muscle and bone in the body in a very organized, spider web-type pattern.   When healthy, this tissue is soft and flexible, allowing us to move and stretch comfortably.  However, when inflammation or trauma occurs, myofascia can become tight, restricting movement and causing referred tension and pain throughout the body.  Headaches, muscle pain, sciatica, neuropathies, and tension or pain throughout the back and neck can all result from damage to myofascial tissue.  Physical therapy, chiropractic care, and massage therapy are all means by which to help damaged myofascial tissue regain its elasticity.  However, foam rolling allows patients another at-home option by which to find comfort.

How Does Foam Rolling Work, and Who Should do it?

Foam rollers are cylinders which vary in size and density.  By using them to place precise pressure on troublesome trigger points throughout the body, users often receive relief equivalent to that offered by a deep-tissue massage.  The practice is typically uncomfortable.  It isn’t uncommon to feel pain as tension within the myofascia is released or soreness after, but the end result is often relief.  Most patients can treat their tension, stiffness, and pain with foam rolling without complication.  However, for all users, it is important to first speak to a professional such as a chiropractor or physical therapist.  They can help you determine if the pain you are experiencing is in fact due to myofascial tension, as well as instruct you on proper use of the foam roller to avoid further injury.

While ongoing treatment with a skilled chiropractor is the most effective treatment option for many types of back or neck pain, self-myofascial release with a foam roller will also prove helpful for many patients, particularly those who are physically active.  To determine if the practice is safe for you, contact SouthEast Chiropractic: The Motion Centers.  Not only will our chiropractors help determine the true source of your pain, they will also help develop a treatment plan that consists of both in-office and at-home initiatives.  To request your appointment in our GastoniaBelmont, or Denver, NC office, simply click here.