When I go into many workout areas now I more and more I see large balls and foam tubes laying around. I never really got into using them, but see many people, both men and women and usually older people who are.
So curiosity has gotten the best of me, so I decided to investigate what foam rollers are all about.
As I found out they are not only used by older people but by athletes and physical therapists to inhibit overactive muscles.
It is a way of stretching, but also to relax the muscles. Athletes use them to release trigger points, which activates the muscle tissue by increasing blood flow. And what exactly are trigger points?
They can be described as muscles that are unable to relax. Muscles mode of action is by contraction, and when they are unable to release the contraction blood is not allowed to enter the contracted part of the muscle.
It is actually quite easy to find these trigger points, as the metabolic activity in these muscles give off heat and make them sore to the touch. I’m sure we have all experienced these sensations with sore muscles.
The study of trigger points goes back at least 75 years, and we might have referred to them as muscle knots. They can be caused by repetitive motion, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, muscle overexertion, like trying to lift something you have no business trying to lift, or staying in an odd posture or position for a long period.
Even though athletes are more susceptible to developing trigger points, anyone can pick them up in the course of everyday living.
So people use foam rollers massage sticks and yoga balls to massage these areas, improving tissue quality by breaking down fibrous tissue and increasing blood flow in the problematic muscles.
It is sort of like going to a message therapist without the cost. When people feel a tight spot, they just roll out the muscle, promoting faster healing.
But physical therapists are now looking at this tool as something more than for treating sore muscles. It is now believed it can be used on a daily basis to help prevent trouble spots from cropping up.
Using them on the hamstrings, for instance, has been found to reduce arterial stiffness, which will lead to better blood circulation to feed the muscles.
By working the hamstring area, one study found significant increases in range of motion in less than ten seconds. It has also been found to increase strength, as various exercises have been devised for its use.
Plus especially when using a ball its instability will improve core muscle strength and balance.
If you are just starting out using foam roller you may want to start out with one that isn’t very dense.
A harder one will probably hurt a lot until the scar tissue becomes broken down and the muscles begin to lengthen. As that happens you can upgrade to a superior brand.
Where you carry your weight has a lot to do with your overall health, as it is a marker for issues
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. Rich Carroll is a writer and avid health advocate now living in Chicago.