No time for a massage after a long day at your desk or a hard workout? Try this nifty DIY trick.
What you need: Just a foam roller (a firm, log-shaped piece of foam that you can find at any number of stores and online), and the floor to balance yourself.
How it works: Think of it as a self-massage. You use your own body weight to apply pressure to sore spots as you push down and roll on the foam cylinder. The pressure increases blood flow and helps release muscle tightness. Legs, hips and backs are the most common areas for foam rolling, but you can work just about any part of your body that’s feeling a little stiff or achy.
The good kind of pressure: Foam rollers come in different levels of density (read: hardness). If you’re just starting out, you might want to avoid the “extra firm” ones until you get used to how it feels. It’s like getting a gentle aromatherapy massage before you graduate to the deep-tissue variety.
No pain, no gain? The best part of at-home foam rolling is that you can completely control how much pressure you want to apply to your muscles, and can back off quickly if you hit an overly sensitive spot. That said, getting the full benefits of foam rolling does require feeling a little discomfort as you work out the knots. As always, consult a doctor or trainer if you have any concerns.
Still aren't exactly sure how to use a foam roller? Here are three examples of exercises that will ease muscle pain.
Illustrations by Cindy Luu