If you've ever gasped at an aching back or felt your hips stiffen from sitting at your desk all day, using a foam roller could help. The hips are a common source of tension in the back and legs, and keeping the muscles in your hips flexible can help you prevent pain and immobility. A foam roller is a simple exercise tool that allows you to stretch and massage muscles. When doing foam roller exercises, there's no specific number of reps you need to do. Instead, focus on rolling until your muscles feel less tense.
The hip flexors are muscles that help pull the knee upward, and pain and tension in these muscles can cause pain to radiate downward to the knee. To work these muscles, lie on the floor and position the foam roller directly under the hip flexors, which are the muscles located on the front of your hips where your hips meet your thighs. While balancing on your hands or elbows and tensing your abdominal muscles, roll back and forth on the roller. You should feel slight pressure in the area and you may even feel some pain if you have muscle knots. However, the pain should not be unbearable and should not radiate to your back or neck. Stop if it does.
The gluteal muscles are the four muscles of the rear, and they rotate your hips. Tension in the glutes can cause hip and back pain and interfere with movement and lifting. To work your glutes, position the foam roller underneath your rear while you are lying on your back. Roll from the top of your thighs to the bottom of your back. Balance yourself on your elbows for this move, and keep your abdominal muscles engaged while rolling.
The hip adductors are located on the top inside of your thigh as well as on the lower portion of the front of your hip. To roll in this position, lie face down with your left leg extended slightly to the left side and your right knee bent. Position the roller underneath the inside of your right thigh, and then roll upward to the bottom of your hips. Repeat on the left leg. This rolling position is often uncomfortable, much like getting an intense massage, but it should not cause extreme pain or cause radiating pain throughout your body.
Tension in your thighs is often caused by tension in the hips, and pain in the thighs can radiate up to your hips. Release this tension by lying on your side with the foam roller positioned on the side of your leg just above your knee. Balance on your elbow. Roll upward, and then repeat on the other leg. Next, position the foam roller above the back of your knee while lying on your back. While balancing on your elbows, roll upward toward the base of your buttocks.
- PhysioAdvisor.com: Foam Roller Exercises (Lower Body)
- Foam Roller Workbook; Karl Knopf
- Roll Release Foam Roller Techniques; Dr. Ryan Emmons
Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.