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To Foam Roll Or Not To Foam Roll

Foam rolling. Everyone is doing it so it must help, right? 

So often, when you feel tight or are developing pain somewhere, everyone you ask tells you to foam roll for it – gym friends, coaches, therapists, online groups, Google, YouTube. So, you do. And it helps…temporarily! So, you do it the next day and the day after that. Before you know it, your tightness and pain is gone as long as you foam roll at least once a day. 

Awesome! You found something that works to fix your problem. But is it really fixing the problem or just applying a band-aid to cover up the problem? 

Time to find out! 

When thinking about injuries or areas of chronic tightness, there are two things to dive into: 1) Why is the area tight?, and 2) What resolves chronically tight muscles? 

Why is the area tight? 

Our bodies do not just decide they want to be tight for the sole purpose of being tight; there is a reason for the tightness. There are a lot of reasons for the tightness, but some common reasons are weakness in the muscles that stabilize the joint, poor motor control of an area of the body, and stiff joints making the muscles work harder. 

Do you think that foam rolling is going to fix any of those issues? You guessed it! Nope! 

What resolves chronically tight muscles? 

While foam rolling is great to provide some temporary relief, the only way to resolve the tightness that is present is to figure out what is causing the issue in the first place. This requires a deep dive into how your body is moving – finding those areas that are not moving well, the weaknesses that are present, what compensations your body is making, and what habitual movement patterns you have created that are not serving you or your body well.  

Once you figure out what your body is doing to create the tightness, then you can start doing the necessary exercises to correct the issue, or more likely issues. There are a number of ways to do that, but in my opinion, they do not include the use of foam rolling or stretching…at least not stretching in the way that most people stretch. The exercises normally involve things to teach your body how to move better so it can stop compensating – improving joint mobility, improving the control of your body, and learning how to move in better movement patterns. 

Now, if you are perfectly happy foam rolling every day to control your tightness and/or pain, go for it! Nobody is going to stop you. But if you would prefer a solution so you can train and live your life without depending on your foam roller, then I encourage you to dig deeper to find that solution that is going to help you. 

Is this bringing up more questions for you? Great! Email them to me at brianne@getyourfixpt.com 

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