Tight muscles? Try a foam roller

Tight muscles?  Try a foam roller

Tight muscles are no fun. They become sore and tired, making exercise and other activities a chore. You may also find that tight muscles make you feel less flexible when you try to move. A good massage can loosen up your tight spots, but if you can’t get a professional massage, try a foam roller.

What is a foam roller?

Foam rollers are large cylinders of solid foam. They come in different sizes and firmness levels. You can use them to massage large muscle groups. Some people use them after a workout to prevent pain. Others include foam rolling as part of a warm-up to make sure the muscles are loose before exercising. Other people use them to relieve tension.

What does a foam roller do?

Foam rollers, like a massage, are a type of myofascial release technique. The fascia is a layer of fibrous tissue that surrounds your muscles. It contains and protects your muscles and helps the muscles move smoothly so that you can be active.

If your muscles are overstretched or injured, the fascia can contract to protect the muscles from further injury. Tension may remain after the muscles have healed, so you may feel stiff and tight after the strain or injury is better. Myofascial release techniques carefully manipulate the tissues and allow them to relax in a loose state.

Foam Roller Exercises

Here are five ways you can use a foam roller:

: Hamstrings can tighten if you spend a lot of time at work. Using a foam roller will stimulate circulation to the area to keep your blood flowing to these muscles. Rolling will also loosen muscles that have become stiff from staying still. Here’s how to use a foam roller for your hamstrings:

  • Sit on the floor with your legs extended forward.
  • Lift yourself up and back until the roller touches the back of your leg between knee and hip.
  • Slowly move forward and back along the length of your thigh.
  • Continue for about 30 seconds.

: If you sit a lot, your quads spend a lot of time in a shortened position. The foam roller helps loosen the tight fibers around your leg muscles. This will improve mobility and flexibility. To massage this muscle group, follow these steps:

  • Start in a plank position with the roller under your thigh.
  • Push your body forward and back so that the roller runs the length of your quad muscles.
  • If you hit a sensitive spot, hold still and stop. Hold steady pressure for a few breaths.
  • Continue for about 30 seconds.


upper back
: Sitting, standing, and exercising can all put a strain on your back and shoulders. Rolling the muscles can reduce minor spasms that cause pain. The increased flexibility and looser muscles will help improve your posture so that you don’t exacerbate the tension by adopting an unusual position. This is how you use a foam roller for your upper back:

  • Lie on the floor with your knees bent. Rest your shoulders against the roller
  • Raise your hips and use your feet to push your torso back and forth along the roller.
  • Continue for about 30 seconds.

Illiotibial band: The iliotibial band (IT band) is a long piece of connective tissue that runs along the outside of your leg from your pelvis to your knee. IT bands can become tight and cause knee and hip pain. Rolling out the tension in the IT band is just as good as a warm-up and post-workout routine. This is how you roll it out:

  • Lie on your side, legs straight, with your outer thigh on the roller.
  • Rest your upper leg on your lower leg. You can also cross your upper leg over your lower leg and rest your foot on the floor.
  • Use your arm to support your upper body.
  • Roll the outside of your leg and back down. If you hit a sore, pause for a few breaths.
  • Continue for 30 seconds.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Latissimus Muscles
: These muscles, known as your lats, are located under your arm and along the side of your rib cage. If they are tight, it can disrupt your posture. Loosening these muscles will allow you to stand or sit up. This also prevents your back from getting tired. To roll out this muscle group, do the following:

  • Lie on your back with the foam roller under one of your slats.
  • Keep your lower leg straight and bend your upper leg over it to help with balance.
  • Start rolling slowly from your armpit to your mid-back.
  • Continue for 30 seconds, then switch to roll on the other side.

If you’re not sure if you’re healthy enough to foam roll, talk to your doctor. They can discuss the risks and benefits with you.



Harvard Health Publishing: “What to do with that foam roller at the gym?”

Mayo Clinic: “Foam Rolling Basics.”


© 2015 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

Leave a Comment