Wellness benefits of foam rolling

Myofascial release with foam roller physical therapy techniques for different body parts.(Metro/Stock graphic)

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While traditional stretching works wonders for the body, there’s a way to get even more out of it. Head chiropractor of Winters Family Chiropractic, Dr. James Stirton breaks down the benefits of using a foam roller alongside regular stretching.

A foam roller is a cylindrical tube of foam roughly 36 inches in length with a six-inch diameter. To use it, one simply maneuvers different parts of their body — say the calves for example — on the foam roller and rocks back and forth. Just like how a dough roller flattens out the dough, foam rollers are great at loosening up tight muscles.

“You can lay on and rest your body on this cylindrical roll and by rolling on it, you will effectively massage your tissues wherever you’re rolling. The foam roll is an excellent massage tool you can use on your own to loosen and liberate the facial restrictions in your hips, back, shoulders, legs and arms,” explained Stirton. “My favorite for just ease of doing it and how great it feels is just sitting on the foam roller where the meat of your butt is. You just rock back and forth a little and it hits all the hip muscles that are bearing all the weight when you’re upright. It will reduce most pelvic pain right out of the gate when you come home from a long day on your feet. You can sit on the foam roller in front of your TV and roll on it and it’ll loosen you right up.”

Stirton advocates for good old-fashioned stretching, however, it’s not quite as effective as using a foam roller. From breaking up deep, fascial restrictions to reducing inflammation, there’s a reason foam rollers are widely used in chiropractic practices.

“Stretching and foam rolling are not the same things because it’s like a totally different massage technique. Stretching really isn’t any type of massage because you’re just taking the two points of attachment of a muscle and creating more distance between them. That causes a direct pulling on that tissue and gets it out to an optimal length again because muscles will be at a fixed tightness and not change easily. So, it’s actually better to do foam rolling in addition to your stretching,” said Stirton. “Foam rolling, like stretching, will alleviate soreness, it helps reduce inflammation and it helps muscle recovery. So, after a workout, you can stretch and then foam roll and get added benefit in your muscle repair. I’d say the foam roll is more effective at reducing post-workout soreness because it does more than stretching. It pushes the lactic acid buildup out of your muscles quicker.”

To Stirton, foam rolling is something he recommends his patients do in between chiropractic appointments. As foam rollers vary in hardness, he also recommends people begin with softer rollers and work their way up.

“I’ll start someone on a softer, lower-density foam roller. As that becomes more comfortable and invigorating and not tender and painful to do, I up it to a firmer roll to increase the breaking up of all those problem areas,” said Stirton.

For more information on this subject, visit americanriverchiropractic.com. Or, one can reach out to Stirton directly at jimstirtondc@gmail.com. It’s like the good doctor always says, “If you’re not certain, ask Dr. Stirton.”

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