First, it’s important to understand the part of the body the foam roller is intended for: the fascia. Ok—so it’s not technically a body part. The fascia is a connective tissue made up of glycoproteins (which sponge up water), fat cells, and collagen fibers (the body’s strongest protein). It runs through your entire body, holding muscles and bones in place and even supporting their movement. Because the fascia system stretches all throughout the body, it plays an integral role in your day-to-day life. Many of the pains we attribute to sore muscles or aching bones are actually tight or irritated fascia. Conversely, taking steps to maintain a healthy fascia can lead to increased energy, better sleep, and overall greater comfort.
But there’s good news: taking good care of your fascia is incredibly simple! If you’ve ever had to massage scar tissue after a surgery or deep cut, you’ve already had some interaction with your fascia. The reason that massaging scar tissue works is because it has the same collagen base as your fascia, making it elastic and pliable. Similarly, regularly massaging the fascia will help to loosen tough spots and also unblock any build-up that may have accrued from a recent injury or misuse.
How does the foam roller help exactly? The cylindrical shape of the foam roller allows you to apply concentrated pressure to specific areas of your body. For example, when using it on your calves—a favorite for those whose work requires a lot of standing or walking—you can use both hands to press the roller against your muscle, focusing all of that pressure to just the point of contact, and then rotating the roller to move up or down the muscle as needed. The same technique can be applied to other parts as well, such as thighs and arms.
So whether you’re looking to give your body some reprieve from your workouts or just want to feel better after a long day of work, using a foam roller can help ease sore muscles and keep your joints from getting stiff. And with an abundance of online instructional videos, you can search for ways to use your foam roller for specific problems, or find general routines to keep your body in tip-top shape.