There is nothing quite like the agony and the ecstasy of a foam roller. I use it on my legs daily and it can loosen and relax my muscles better than any stretch, but at the same time it's a daily torture (particularly when it comes to my IT bands, the muscles running from hips to knees on the exterior side of my legs) that I'm inflicting on myself.
But just as with any sort of fitness routine, the more you do something, the more your body gets used to it and the less effective it becomes. My muscles are becoming accustomed to my standard-issue roller, so I've upgraded to the bumpy RumbleRoller, which is made specifically for deep-tissue relief. The problem: On anything other than my quads, it bloody hurts. So, how do I go from hurting to hurting so good?
Foam-rolling can be beneficial to increasing blood flow to an area and reducing some exercise-induced muscle soreness, says chiropractor Melanie Lopes, who founded the 361° Chiropractic Sports & Wellness clinic in Toronto and has treated athletes at the Invictus Games, North American Indigenous Games and 2017 Canada Summer Games. "But don't tenderize your muscles like a piece of meat by overdoing it."
Lopes says some keys to success are rolling "after your body is warmed up," engaging core muscles to alleviate undue pressure and using modified techniques if the core isn't too strong – "doing it while standing against a wall" – and targeting the therapy. "Roll over the muscle three to five times and if you have a tender or tight spot, hold your pressure over that area, and then move onto another spot," she says.
"Many think that you only foam-roll when you are in pain, but in fact, you can incorporate foam-rolling as part of your maintenance regime to ensure that muscular tension doesn't build up over time," Lopes says.