Have a few tired, nagging, tight muscles from all the active holiday preparations but really don't want to take the time to get a massage? How about allotting 10 minutes out of your day for a self-massage?
When foam rollers hit the scene for the public, they instantly became a hot item to help stretch out those knots, improve muscular imbalances and increase range of motion. Foam rollers had previously been used by professional athletes and therapists. When using a foam roller, the movement and pressure applied to the muscle help to break up adhesions and alleviate muscle tightness. You can adjust the pressure to your comfort level.
Foam rollers are sold at most sporting goods stores and on amazon.com. They vary in size, shape and firmness; a 36-inch roller is long enough for your entire back, and a soft-foam roller will give you a more gentle massage than a hard-density roller.
If you're a beginner, consider watching videos online or consulting a certified personal trainer or physical therapist for proper form before you get rolling.
Tips on getting started
• It's best to perform roller exercises after your muscles are warmed up.
• Use the roller on a nonslippery, hard surface.
• Always engage your core.
• As you roll, take deep, slow breaths to help the muscles relax. Never hold your breath.
• Perform movements slowly, with control. Muscles do not have time to adapt if you roll too fast.
• Avoid rolling directly over bony joints, such as your knees. Placing pressure on them could cause hypertension of the joints beyond normal limits.
• Do not roll directly on your lower back. Instead, roll the muscles that connect to it, such as your hips. When hips are stiff, it will cause you to bend at your waist instead of from the hips, placing too much pressure on the lower back.
• It's okay to roll your upper back, as the spine is protected by the shoulder blades and muscles. Stop rolling when you reach the end of your rib cage.
• Avoid rolling directly over a painful, inflamed area. It is best to begin by rolling a few inches away from the overly sensitive area, eventually using large broad movements over the area.
• Roll just about 20 seconds on each tender area. Rolling too long could cause irritation to the area you are rolling.
• It's not unusual to experience a mild amount of discomfort, but you should never feel pain.
That little yellow ball
You have a choice. A tennis ball can work out the tight and sore muscles as well. When you find a particular spot that feels tight, apply pressure for five to 10 seconds, then move on to another area. Be sure you target soft muscle tissue, not the bones or joints. You can increase the intensity by simply using more of your body weight on the ball. It is a good idea to move and stretch the muscles after releasing the tension.
Check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program. Sally Anderson is happy to hear from readers but can't respond to individual inquiries. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.