I have so many clients that come to Pilates to be more flexible and relieve tension throughout the body. I recommend these clients regularly roll on the foam roller. Five years ago, people had no idea what rolling was but now people know the many benefits of the foam roller. It is wonderful that clients are rolling but recent research findings suggests we need to refine their rolling use slightly.
The foam roller has gained in popularity because it’s inexpensive and accessible to everyone, unlike a weekly deep tissue massage. It is an excellent self-care tool allowing one’s own body weight to determine how much pressure to apply to an area and providing that “good pain,” similar to the feeling of a myofascial massage.
The benefits of rolling include increasing flexibility, increasing blood circulation, reduction in muscle soreness and tension, aid in breaking up trigger points (knots), adhesions and scar tissue. Foam rolling is great for releasing soft tissue of the glutes, hamstrings, calves, quadriceps, upper and back. So keep on rolling these areas.
It has never been advised to roll the neck or lower back. And in the last year or so, new research has demonstrated rolling the IT Band dangerous. The IT Band or Iliotibial band is the dense strip of fascia on the lateral side of the leg, running from the hip to the knee. Previously, the thinking was rolling the IT Band would release tension in the leg and take pressure off the knee and hip. But muscles from the front of the leg and back of the leg feed into the IT Band. Rolling the IT Band pulls on both sides of the leg which are opposing muscle groups. That can create problems. So to release IT Band it is best to use The Stick or work with a massage professional.
Keep Rolling Your: Glutes, hamstrings, calves, quadriceps, upper back
Do not Roll: Neck, Lower Back, or IT Band.
Lastly, keep in mind that foam rolling can become addicting, craving that “good pain” everyday. But as with exercise, it is necessary to give your body time to recuperate and process the information that rolling gives your muscles.