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Dr. Corinne: Foam Rolling, Fascia and How to Bring Healing to Sore Muscles and More, by Yourself

Dr. Corinne Weaver : Nov 1, 2019

I personally love foam rolling and have discovered many benefits since I've incorporated it into my own daily routine.

I discovered foam rolling about 10 years ago and today I am going to share the benefits and various techniques of foam rolling. Foam rolling is a technique for self-myofascial release (SMR), and the goal is to release fascia. (Image: via NJ Cycle Studios)

What is fascia?

Fascia is fibrous connective tissue, mostly collagen, that wraps around and connects organs, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Fascia enables body parts to move individually or as groups. Fascia is a fluid-filled structure that needs to remain hydrated to function properly. While staying hydrated by drinking water helps, movement is vital for keeping fascia hydrated.

Inactivity causes fascia tissues to bind together, which causes loss of flexibility, leading to a limited range of motion. Extreme tightness in a muscle or those knots in your back is the result of fascia binding together. Over time these muscle imbalances can become worse because they don't heal on their own leading to chronic pain and limited range of motion.

We have a tendency to blame this on aging, but there are things we can do, like foam rolling to improve fascia hydration.

Self-myofascial release is a deep tissue massage technique.

The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association published an article with potentially groundbreaking science supporting myofascial release techniques such as foam rolling. Myofascial release is considered an alternative medicine technique to treat skeletal muscle immobility and pain by relaxing contracted muscles, improving blood and lymphatic circulation, and stimulating the stretch reflex in muscles.

Another study in the Journal of Sports Rehabilitation found that foam rolling—coupled with old-school static stretching—could increase the range of motion in the hip more than stretching alone.

Foam rolling is the application of pressure to release trigger points. The goal is to stretch and loosen the fascia so that it and other structures can move more freely. Trigger points are sensitive points in the body, which can cause a specific effect in other areas of the body. Trigger points can be tender areas in a muscle that causes generalized musculoskeletal pain when overstimulated. With foam rolling, pressure can be applied to a specific point to relieve pain elsewhere in the body.

Foam rolling may decrease muscle thickness, which would make the muscle less resistant to motion and therefore, more flexible. Some researchers believe that foam rolling may fire up your central nervous system, which registers and reacts to pain. Foam rolling stimulates pressure receptors beneath your skin, which signal the brain and nervous system to reduce levels of stress hormones.

Foam rolling aims to realign your body by working with the fascia. You don't need to be injured to benefit from foam rolling. Regular use of a foam roller offers numerous benefits. Many benefits are comparable to a deep tissue or sports massage. Pre and post-workout use will help prepare your muscles for the workout and help with post muscle recovery. Foam rolling can decrease muscle and joint pain, increase circulation and improve mobility, balance, and gait for peak performance.

Benefits include:

prevention of injury and increased recovery time

breaking up of old scar tissue

improved mobility, flexibility, and coordination

removal of lactic acid to aid recovery

useful as a workout tool

improved posture and breathing

alleviation of chronic pain

increased body awareness

enhanced energy levels

Foam rolling should be done before static or dynamic stretching. This will improve the muscle's ability to lengthen. You want to slowly roll the targeted area to find a tender spot. Hold on the tender spot for 30-60 seconds. Beginners should start at 30 seconds and work up to longer holds. Once you become more familiar with foam rolling, you can do two sets per muscle group, holding for 30-60 seconds, releasing and rolling the same area again.

Don't forget to maintain core stability to keep posture aligned. It may take some time before you get the hang of proper positioning. A personal trainer or physical therapist can help you get started until you're more comfortable rolling on your own.

Please note: Foam rolling may not be appropriate for people with the following conditions, congestive heart failure, kidney failure, or any organ failure, bleeding disorders, or contagious skin conditions. Speak with a medical professional before starting a foam rolling routine.

Foam rolling offers a host of benefits; however, improper use can have painful or damaging effects:

Mistake # 1

Rolling Directly Where You Feel Pain

When we feel pain, our first reaction is to massage the painful spot directly. However, for some areas of the body, this can cause issues. When you find a sensitive spot, move a few inches away and work a more localized region around areas that feel sore before using larger, sweeping motions.

Mistake # 2

Rolling Too Fast

You need to give your brain time to signal your muscles to relax. While rolling quickly may feel great, you're not really achieving anything. Instead use short, slow rolls over tender spots.

Mistake # 3

Spending Too Much Time On Knots

It can be tempting to spend an extended amount of time working out a knot, however, sustained pressure can hit a nerve or damage the tissue. Don't spend more than 60 seconds on a particular spot.

Mistake # 4

Poor Posture

When you don't pay attention to your form you may aggravate pre-existing postural deviations and cause more harm. Try looking at your reflection while foam rolling to prevent injuries.

Foam rollers are available in a variety of shapes, sizes, density, and textures. The most crucial aspect when choosing the right foam roller is the density or firmness. The majority of foam rollers are long and cylindrical, typically about three feet in length and six inches in diameter. As a general rule of thumb, higher density, harder rollers provide deeper, more intense massage. For a more gentle massage look for a softer roller.

Standard density

Standard density rollers are of medium firmness. They can be used for both self-massage and exercise. They offer moderate cushion with just enough density for a deep massage. Standard rollers can be useful as props in Pilates and yoga routines as well.

Soft density

Soft density rollers are useful for a gentler massage. These rollers have more cushion for comfort as opposed to the former rollers designed for a deeper massage. This form is more gentle on muscles.

Firm density

Firm density rollers are designed for a deep, more intense massage. High performing athletes or very active individuals with tighter tense muscles can benefit from these harder rollers.

Specialized rollers are also offered for various purposes.

Smaller Length

Smaller rollers can help when you have a specific area to work or smaller areas such as the muscles under the arms. These are easier to maneuver. Bonus, they are better for travel as well.

Smaller Diameter

Smaller diameter rollers allow more stability as you are lower to the floor. These are particularly useful for aging users.

Unique Textures

Textured rollers provide ridges or knobs to dig into muscles deeper. This style is useful for areas with multiple trigger points and provides a deeper penetrating massage to break up tight fascia. These rollers offer the most intense massage.

Unique Shapes

Some rollers have edges to create added stability during exercise. They are useful for building a pilates practice, improving balance, core strength, and body awareness.

Hollow Core Rollers

Hollow rollers are usually stabilized with a PVC core covered in foam. These are ideal for frequent users. They are designed to be more durable and keep their shape over time.

Foam rollers can be used for both massage and fitness. The possibilities for movement are nearly endless! Remember to start slow. Some discomfort is to be expected, but don't push beyond pain. Remember to roll over the targeted area slowly and start with 20-30 seconds until you are more comfortable with the move.

Start with a standard or gentle roller. You can use your roller before and after a workout. Some people enjoy rolling before bed to help release tension. This is what I usually do right before I go to bed. You can look for instructional videos on YouTube for at-home use. For one of my favorite videos Click Here. It is recommended to work with a personal trainer or physical therapist to help with proper form in the beginning.

These techniques below will cover a head to toe routine, incorporating both exercises and massages...

This technique will open the chest, front of the shoulders, and collarbone. It's a great technique used more to reduce head forward posture and lessen tension in the upper back and neck:

Step 1: Place the roller behind you below shoulder blades, perpendicular to your body, with the knees bent together at a 90-degree angle and feet planted on the floor.

Step 2: Reach your arms behind you and wrap your biceps around the roller, rotating your forearms and palms up as you look straight ahead.

Step 3: Inhale as you twist your hip to the left, dropping knees to the left, and your head to the right to stretch your neck and the full length of your spine.

Step 4: Exhale for a few seconds to feel the opening and expansion.

Step 5: Inhale to reverse the position and fully exhale to hold and release.

Repeat 8 times on each side.

This technique will increase lymphatic drainage, help to stimulate circulation and blood flow through the upper back and shoulders and reduce tension and compression:

Step 1: Place the roller behind your middle upper back, perpendicular to your body, with the knees bent and together at a 90-degree angle and feet planted on the floor.

Step 2: Slightly twisted toward the right side of your upper back, right armpit, and ribs.

Step 3: Roll from your armpit about four inches down towards your waist and back press with your feet to drive the roller, for 30 to 60 Switch sides.

Repeat 8 times on each side.

This technique will deliver oxygenated blood and lubrication to the head, neck, shoulders, chest, and thoracic spine:

Step 1: Lie faceup with the roller under you, parallel position to your spine from head to tailbone.

Step 2: Reach your arms out to the side, elbows at a 90-degree angle (like a goal post), with the palms of your hands up and expand the chest.

Step 3: Inhale as you bring your forearms together above your chest, and exhale as you reach your forearms down while wrapping your shoulder blades around the roller.

Repeat 8 to 10 times.

This technique will release tight muscles and one of the largest muscles in the back:

Step 1: Lie on your left side with knees bent and your left knee slightly in front of you.

Step 2: Bend your left elbow and rest your ear on your arm to support your head and neck.

Step 3: Place the roller just below your left armpit, perpendicular to your body.

Step 4: Slowly rock forward and backward 5 times at armpit, and then move the roller to the midribs and rock forward and back slowly.

Alternate between these two spots for 60 seconds, then repeats on the right side.

This is an inversion to stimulate the lymphatic system, increases circulation, and helps to lubricate your lower back and hips:

Step 1: Place the roller under your tailbone and place your upper back and shoulders against the floor with knees bent to a 90-degree angle with knees over hips.

Step 2: Place your hands on either side of the outer edge of the roller. (The roller should remain stable throughout this exercise)

Step 3: Inhale as you reach your legs and extend your legs straight to a 45-degree angle.

Step 4: Slowly lower legs with knees bent without using or arching in your lower back and shoulders with core held tight.

Repeat 8 to 10 times.

This technique will help build longer, leaner, and stronger muscles along the sides of the body and waist to help with core strength:

Step 1: Lie down on your left side in a straight line from head to toe. Place the roller under your left leg just above the ankle.

Step 2: Place your left elbow directly under your shoulder, with your left forearm flat on the ground.

Step 3: Press weight into your lower leg and forearm and lift your midsection off the ground while keeping the roller still and stable.

Step 4: You can hold here for a few breaths, or for a more intense move exhale as you rotate your torso and top arm down toward the ground, while keeping your body

propped up, then return to the side plank position.

Repeat 8 to 10 times on each side.

This technique provides a deep stretch for the glutes and can help release tension in the lower back:

Step 1: Sit on the roller perpendicular to your body, with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor, and hands-on the floor behind you to support your body.

Step 2: Cross your left ankle over your right knee and tilt your left knee toward the floor to open up your hip.

Step 3: Using your right foot to move, slowly roll back and forth. You can try a few slightly different angles to adjust the intensity.

Continue for 30-60 seconds, then repeat on your right side.

This technique will provide a deep stretch to the hamstrings, an area everyone struggles with:

Step 1: From a seated position, extend your legs in front of you and place the roller under your right thigh.

Step 2: Place your hands to the side or behind you to help support your weight and lift hips off the floor.

Step 3: Relax the hamstrings of the leg you are stretching and roll over the foam from below the hip to above the back of the knee for 30-60 seconds.

Repeat on the opposite leg.

This technique will provide a deep stretch to quadriceps:

Step 1: Start in a forearm plank with the roller under the center of your right quad, perpendicular to your leg.

Step 2: Keep your head in line with your spine, eyes facing downward, and core tight as you gently roll forward and back on the roller from just above your kneecap to

the top of your thigh.

Step 3: When you hit a sore spot, hold the roller there, and bend and extend the leg that is feeling the knot to place your weight over the sore spot for 30 seconds.

Repeat on the other leg.

This technique will provide a deep stretch to the lower legs and calves:

Step 1: Sit with the foam roller under your right calf and hands at your sides for support.

Step 2: Use your hands to raise hips off the floor and roll from the ankle to the mid-calf for 30 seconds.

Step 3: Stop on tender spots and gently rotate leg side to side.

Step 4: Repeat on the upper half of your calf; you can also flex and point your toes while resting on the tender spot.

Repeat on the other side.

This technique will provide a deep stretch to the lower legs and calves:

Step 1: Sit with the foam roller under your right calf and hands at your sides for support.

Step 2: Use your hands to raise hips off the floor and roll from the ankle to the mid-calf for 30 seconds.

Step 3: Stop on tender spots and gently rotate leg side to side.

Step 4: Repeat on the upper half of your calf; you can also flex and point your toes while resting on the tender spot.

Repeat on the other side.

I personally love foam rolling and have discovered many benefits since I've incorporated it into my own daily routine. My mission is to help you get healthier without needing more medications and living your God purpose fulfilled life!! Much love and blessings to you and your family. Subscribe for free to Breaking Christian News here

Keep Breathing,
Dr. Corinne Weaver 


Below are some links for more learning:


Dr. Corinne Weaver is a compassionate upper cervical chiropractor, educator, motivational speaker, mother of three, and internationally bestselling author. In 2004, she founded the Upper Cervical Wellness Center in Indian Trail, North Carolina. Over the last 13 years, she has helped thousands of clients restore their brain to-body function. When she was 10 years old, she lost her own health as the result of a bike accident that led to having asthma and allergy issues that she thought she would always have to endure. Then, after her first upper cervical adjustment at age 21, her health began to improve thanks to upper cervical care and natural herbal remedies. This enabled her to create a drug-free wellness lifestyle for herself and her family, and she also enthusiastically discovered her calling to help children heal naturally.

Dr. Weaver was named one of Charlotte Magazine's "Top Doctors" in 2016 and is now a number-one internationally bestselling author to two books: Learning How to Breathe and No More Meds. 

Upper Cervical Wellness Center is known for finding the root cause of health concerns through lifestyle changes, diagnostic testing, nutraceutical supplementation, and correction of subluxation (as opposed to just medicating the symptoms). The practice offers cutting-edge technological care at its state-of-the-art facility, including laser-aligned upper cervical X-rays, bioimpedance analysis (measures body composition), digital thermography (locates thermal abnormalities characterized by skin inflammation), and complete nutritional blood analysis, which is focused on disease prevention.

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