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6 Ways to Improve Flexibility, Part 5: Self-Myofascial Release

19 Jun 2008

Depending on the gym you go to, you may have noticed cylindrical foam rollers some of your fellow gym members use religiously. You may have been curious, but somewhat intimidated to ask or inquire as to what these rollers do.

Once used nearly exclusively in physical therapy settings, foam rollers are often the missing link to flexibility programs and injury prevention.

Using foam rollers for flexibility is commonly called self-myofascial release by health and fitness professionals. Self-myofascial release allows you to massage the fascia that organizes muscle fibers.

When a muscle is very tight, its corresponding fascia coil up into a tight, densely compact network of tissue. Foam rolling works similar to a deep muscle tissue massage as they both help uncoil the fascia surrounding a tight muscle.

The looser the fascia is, the more flexible the muscle fibers they organize will become, and the more limber the corresponding muscle groups will be! This will give your joints better range of motion and prevent injuries.

For all its advantages, foam rolling may not be right for everyone as you often have to use the roller to apply pressure to tight muscle groups, and that can be painful!

If you have any diagnosed condition that causes chronic pain in your muscles or joints, be sure to consult with your orthopedic, rheumatologist, or other health care provider to see if it’s safe for you to foam roll. And regardless of your goals and specific needs, be sure to ask your fitness specialist for more on which specific foam rolling exercises would be helpful for your goals.

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