In gyms all over the country you will see these cylindrical foam tubes, but what is it for and why should you use it?

Foam rollers have been in gyms and health clubs over the past ten years, they are a self induced neuromyofascial release technique, in plain English they help inhibit overactivity in muscle trigger points (Clark 2008).

Trigger points are a protective mechanism in the muscle to stop excessive lengthen or use. They are small ‘knots’ that are caused by excess load, overuse, an impact or trauma. Trigger points can produce pain in other areas than where the point is located, this is known as referred pain. For example pain in the knee can be caused by trigger points in the quadricep (front of your thigh).

The body always moves away from pain and this causes a reprogramming of the nervous system, a rule of thumb is you should never train in pain, as will cause altered movement and recruitment of the wrong muscles to perform the task or exercise. It takes 300 repetitions for the brain to store a movement pattern, whether good or bad, but 5000 repetitions to correct it (Chek 1999).

The roller stimulates receptors around the muscle and produces an inhibitory response (Hou 2002). The roller needs to be held on the tender area for a period of 30-90 seconds for the trigger point to be less active. This then allows the muscle to be stretched to its proper length and can reduce pain (Hanten 2000). Due to specific movement patterns and loads, professional and recreational athletes will have a lot of trigger points in areas generally close to any discomfort. For golfers elbow or tennis elbow trigger points may occur in triceps, forearms, scalene and some of the shoulder muscles.

It is not advised to use if you have had any organ failure, skin conditions or bone disease. Speak to your fitness advisor for more details on how to use.