Everyone who has a foam roller can probably relate to the love/hate relationship I have developed with my foam roller since I got it in early June. I have to say that up until my meeting with a running coach last Tuesday, that relationship was leaning much closer to hate than love. That thing hurts!
Turns out, I didn't even have the most painful version. According to my consultation with a running coach, I need to be using a high density foam roller on hard wood. Previously, I was tortured enough with my regular density foam roller on a nice carpeted floor, but apparently not quite enough. I have to say if you are not injured and already own and use a foam roller, you probably do not need to invest in a new one. However, if you are just thinking about purchasing one, might as well get the high density foam roller. I bought mine on amazon and I went for 6" by 36" round. If you are trying to cut costs, I would go with the 6" by 12" round, rather than going for the half round. I genuinely don't understand what you would do with a half round one, or how it would work. If you do know, please enlighten me but for now I say don't get it.
So what is this foam roller you ask? It has been called the poor man's massage therapist...ha ha. Seriously though, that's what it is. Basically, it would be great for our muscles if we could all get soft tissue massages every day, but since we can't, the foam roller is a good second choice. By giving your muscles this massage, you improve your soft tissue extensibility which relaxes the muscle. As I have learned lately, a lot of our injuries that we attribute to the specific part of the body that hurts (our knee, our shins etc) are really a result of deficits in other areas of my body. For example, when thinking about the pain in my knee, my running coach focused on my feet (such as, do I have problems with overpronation? do I have high arches? etc) and my hips area (am I unbalanced?). It turns out my feet are just fine, but my hips are unbalanced and my calves and quads are too tight. Maybe some of you would've made these kind of assumptions, but I certainly didn't! I thought for sure my knee issue was a knee issue, but nope. Even patellafemoral syndrome, which was I originally diagnosed with involves the quad muscles not being strong enough to hold the patella in place.
So back to foam rolling. My physical therapist told me to do it twice a day, but since I hated it- I did it more like...maybe once? NOW...I am doing it 2-3 times per day and still stretching in addition. After only 5 days of this, my knee was almost completely pain free today. So I'm sold.
You should be too. Even if you are not injured now...why wait until you are? Prevent it!
I've convinced you? Good. Here is what to do. Go here and buy yourself a foam roller. Trust me, if you get injured you will spend way more on doctor's visit co-pays and physical therapy co-pays. This summer I was spending $45 per week to go to physical therapy, the most expensive foam roller is less than $30. Then, check out this video for examples of how to use the foam roller. I use mine to stretch out my IT band (they are doing that in the video when they are on their side), quads, hamstrings and calves. On the video, they also roll on their backs, which I have not tried yet. I also think you can roll on your butt but I haven't QUITE mastered that yet.
Also if you are a runner, I recommend reading this article from Runner's World about foam rolling specifically for runners. They mention all the specific areas that runners should roll and briefly explain how foam rolling can increase your flexibility and improve your performance. They say you should run, roll, then stretch. I have read in other places (and been told by my physical therapist to roll FIRST). I myself am rolling firs thing in the morning so that I can increase my flexibility at the start of the day before I walk on my knee all day long. I think at the end of the day, the important thing is to use the foam roller- no matter WHEN you use it :) That's right...go foam roll, right now!