It used to be that someone would call my office and ask for a massage appointment. I would ask “What kind?” and the response typically was…”well, I’m not sure or I just want one of those relaxation one’s” Today, massage clients are much more educated. In fact, I had a client come into my office the other day and when I asked her she said “I respond best to deep fascial work and trigger point therapy and I love acupressure” Now, that’s an educated client!
People embrace massage for it’s benefits of kneading and pressure and rubbing, right? And, they know this is good for them so how can they get some of these benefits when they are not having a massage. Welcome tools like the Tennis Ball and Foam Roller. These are tools that people can use to get similar benefits as massage.
A foam roller is simply a cylindrical piece of extruded hard-celled foam. I started using a cut swimming noodle on my forearms for self care before specific foam rollers were even manufactured. Now, they come in all shapes and sizes and densities. You see them in massage offices, physical therapy centers and at the local gym.
Which one’s you use depends on the goals. The thicker the roller the harder they are and work best on the denser, heavy muscled athlete for flexibility and muscle relief. For other’s, a less dense roller would be preferable.
Self-care application techniques are simple*.
You can: use them is on a specific surface of your body and ‘roll’ over them or apply pressure to specific surfaces that hold a muscle ‘knot’ . This is also called trigger point therapy and resembles a sense of acupressure. It’s goal is to release this area of hypersensitivity in a knot for pain relief.
A second method is to actually ‘roll’ the tube in a longer, slowly gliding stroke from one end of a muscle group (ex. The erectors along the back) to the other end. This helps elongate muscles and assist in flexibility.
Combining these two methods takes some experience but will provide both decreased pain and increased flexibility.
What is the ultimate goal of any massage therapy session beyond relaxation? Decreased pain and increased flexibility. This is why people are embracing the use of foam rollers! Because it helps and does just this.
But, Which is better, massage or roller? The hands down (pardon the pun) answer is massage. Nothing will ever replace the value of a seasoned professional accessing massage knots and knowing what techniques to apply for maximum benefits. BUT, we all know that there are constraints to receiving daily massages. The next best thing is some self care.
*If you want to include rolling in your self care, like the use of any tool, it is best done with direction from a professional such as a physical therapist, a personal trainer or massage therapist.
Have you ever seen Foal Rollers or used them? And, what has your experience been? Answer below, we’d love to know!