If there is one mantra that rules the offices at SF Custom Chiropractic, it’s this: Foam rolling should form an integral part of everyone’s home care routine. Foam rollers, lightweight cylinders made of high or low density foam facilitate self massage and myo-fascial release, which in turn boosts circulation and helps us to maintain healthy, flexible tissue. And succinctly put, healthy tissue means less chance of developing dysfunction. Foam rolling is a practical, effective way to support and enhance preventative chiropractic treatment. Because foam rolling increases circulation, it serves as a great pre-workout warm up, and, equally, a beneficial post workout recovery aid. Whereas stretching before a workout can blunt our muscles’ ability to generate force, foam rolling brings a much needed surge of oxygen to targeted areas. One study found that participants who foam rolled were “less sore” after a “devastating” workout that included several sets of squats. Over time, the study projected, that same reduced feeling of fatigue would allow participants to extend their workout time and volume, leading to chronic performance enhancements.
A foam roller can help extend the benefits of chiropractic treatment, especially for those whose course of treatment includes Active Release Technique (ART) and/or deep tissue massage. Athletes in particular consistently turn to massage to keep their muscles supple, flexible and healthy, and at performance peak. Regular foam rolling helps all of us athletes and non-
athletes alike to achieve the benefits of massage without relying solely on a massage therapist or certified ART practitioner (like all the doctors at SFCC). A foam roller will never replace a set of skilled hands, but it is an easy, simple way to supplement their work.
Foam rollers work over large areas and target most major muscle groups. Most commonly, you’ll see people rolling out their legs after a tough workout, reducing tension, and easing those knots in their quads, calves, and hamstrings. But foam rollers are equally effective for often neglected areas like the inner abductors (inner thighs), glutes, and piriformis (the small muscle located behind the glutes). For those who spend much of the day sitting down, foam rolling packs a double punch: It will bring blood flow back to the legs but, also target areas that tighten up from too much time in a chair, like the illiotibial (IT) band and the hip abductors.
Should foam rolling form part of your treatment routine for back pain, too? Absolutely. Your back moves with the help of several large groups of muscles; keeping the tissues healthy prevents those muscles from either pulling or putting undue pressure on the nerves and spine. Use a foam roller to ease tension in the thoracic (upper) spine area by placing it perpendicular to your back, and gently rock side to side as you roll slowly up and down the back. Your foam roller will also smooth out your lats, and can even help you get into your rhomboids, those tricky muscles that connect the thoracic spine to the shoulder blades.
Foam rollers are portable, widely available, lightweight, and cheap. And it really only takes a few minutes each day, especially pre or post workout to make a difference. This makes foam-rolling a feasible option for patients who log regular travel time or juggle busy schedules. You gain many benefits for just a short period of time. Almost every gym and studio has a foam roller tucked in the corner these days, so wherever you are, foam rolling is an option. Just toss the roller on the floor and use your body’s own weight for pressure as you move steadily up and down your chosen muscle group. If you like, stop at any tender or tight spots and sink down for 30 – 60 seconds. You can also rock gently over the spot from side to side to speed up oxygenation. Continue rolling the area but, just avoid your joints to bring blood flow and support healthy tissue, enhance performance, speed recovery, or help prevent dysfunction.
A foam roller is a simple tool, but it may be difficult to determine which muscle groups need the most attention or how best to support your chiropractic care. The doctors at SFCC take the time to tailor and recommend a home care routine, and they will guide you through what works best for you. Give us a call at 415.788.8700 to schedule an appointment!
Healey, Kellie C., Hatfield, Disa L., Blanpied, Peter, Dorfman, Leah R., Riebe, Deborah. “The effects of myofascial release with foam rolling on performance.” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. Jan 2014 v28 i1 p61(8) … via Health and Wellness Resource Center
Swain, Liz. “Foam Rollers.” The Gale Encyclopedia of Fitness. Ed. Jacqueline L. Longe. Detroit: Gale, 2012. 2 vols. … via Health and Wellness Resource Center
McDowell, Dimity. “Becoming Your Own Massage Therapist.” New York Times: Health: Fitness and Nutrition. December 1, 2009.
Reynolds, Gretchen. “Ask Well: Do Foam Rollers Aid Workouts?” New York Times Wellness Blog. April 25, 2014.