A foam roller is a wonderful health and fitness accessory - but use it wrongly and you could end up doing yourself more harm than good.
Foam rollers are perfect for stretching some of the harder to reach areas of your body without having to pay for expensive sessions with a masseur or physical therapist.
It is, however, essential that you take the whole subject of physical safety very seriously when using a foam roller at home or down at your local gym. The last thing you want is to do yourself injury of harm when using a device that is actually designed to help improve your physical health and fitness.
Before using a foam roller you should always check with your doctor or physical therapist to make sure that you are in good enough health to use a roller for myofascial release. It is very important for your own well-being to do this before beginning any new fitness regimen.
It is also very important to give your muscles a chance to warm up before you use your foam roller. You should also avoid using a foam roller directly on bones, joints or your spine.
It is also very important to take a rest day between foam rolling sessions as this will give your body a chance to recover. It's good practice to roll one day and rest the next.
Using a foam roller is not necessarily suited to everyone and accidentally making one bad movement due to inexperience could cause an injury, possibly a serious one. This is ironic considering using a roller long-term, in conjunction with a proper warm-up, stretching and dynamic mobility routine, is actually designed to make you less prone to injury and muscle damage.
Feeling a degree of 'good' discomfort during deep-tissue massage with your foam roller is quite normal and means you are concentrating on a good spot, working on a trigger-point, or knotty area in your muscle.
That said, actual significant pain is never acceptable - if you feel serious pain you should back-off, change your technique, and seek advice from your a doctor or physical therapist. You must make sure you are not ever rolling over your joints during a session with a foam roller. It's also important that you feel noticeably better, not worse, after undertaking some deep-tissue massage and trigger point therapy with a roller.
To achieve your goal of remaining injury-free you should use a roller slowly, patiently and thoughtfully at all times in your quest to achieve peak mobility.
It is best to focus on your long-term commitment to mobility, never forgetting the importance of good posture and a strong core. You should err on the side of solid, strong movement, rather than always taking your mobility to the extreme. Mobility and strength will come in the long-run so it is wise to focus on making small, but consistent gains.
As mentioned earlier, if you ever have any doubt about whether you are performing an exercise correctly you should seek professional help from your doctor, physical therapist or trainer.
It is important that you only attempt to stretch warm muscles - stretching immediately after foam roller massage will enhance recovery and mobility gains, and encourage myofascial release.
You should get into each stretch slowly and gradually while taking around eight to 10 of your best deep-breaths. This will increase the quality of the stretches you are performing and will help prevent you from making movements that are too jerky or abrupt. Don't try to make big gains in one day - always be controlled and patient.
The act of stretching can sometimes be uncomfortable. Our bodies are programmed to want to avoid discomfort, but if you are able to consistently end a foam rolling massage routine with a stretching routine, your muscles will recover faster and you will see more strength and mobility gains.
When foam rolling it is vital to ensure you avoid 'bad pain'. Bad pain is a sharp pain and you should stop the exercise you are doing on a roller as soon as it occurs. As mentioned earlier you should be sure not to roll on any joints or bony outcroppings like you kneecaps.
You should also avoid rolling on your lower back as there is a real risk of injury - your lumbar spine is designed to be strong and stable, not mobile. Your neck is another area which sould be avoided when you are using a roller.
Women who are pregant should avoid using a foam roller on their calves. There is an acupuncture pressure point above the ankle and it is believed this can trigger contractions when stimulated.
You should avoid using a roller for over-lengthy periods of time. It is suggested that 20 minutes should be the maximum session. Tissue should be underworked rather than overworked and excessive rolling runs the risk of being harmful and even causing injury.
You should avoid using a roller which is too firm for you in the early days to ensure you don't suffer excessive pain or even bruising. You should start out with a softer roller and upgrade to a firmer one when your muscles tissue gets used to the pressure.
There are several physical ailments which make foam rolling a no-no. You should not consider using a foam roller if you suffer from any of them. These include rheumatoid arthritis, severe kyphosis, problems with dislocating shoulders, severe scoliosis, vertigo or dizziness, osteoporosis, any recent bone fracture, any full weight-bearing restrictions and certain types of cancer.
When it comes to safety you should always ensure a foam roller is only used on a perfectly level and solid surface.
It may sound obvious but you should be very attentive and careful when getting on and off a roller - falling off could result in you hurting yourself.
Only use a roller in an open space away which is a safe distance away from walls, furniture or any other equipment.
Before going to work on a roller you should check out the ground to ensure there are no small sharp objects or anything else which could damage the roller and possibly injure you.
Don't wear watches, belt buckles, jewellery, rings or anything protruding or sharp that could damage the roller and maybe even cause injury to yourself. Also ensure you avoid the risk of your fingers getting caught under the roller when it is moving.
Foam rollers should also be kept safely away from fireplaces, heaters and other sources of heat.
It you always keep safety in mind and take on board the tips and advice above, you have many trouble-free and rewarding sessions with your foam roller.