While the term “foam rollers” may bring curly hair to mind, these aren't your mama's rollers. Rather, these lightweight polyethylene foam cylinders are a new addition to many gyms and workout programs. At 6-inches in diameter, they look like short and stocky pool noodles. Using them to place pressure on a targeted muscle effectively works out muscle knots, increases core stability and enhances balance reactions. When used for the knee, foam rollers target the muscles responsible for function and support.
Muscles Supporting the Knee
The leg muscles work to stabilize the knee and assist in joint movement. These muscles include the quadriceps, hamstrings, adductors, abductors and calves. Your quadriceps allow for knee extension while the hamstrings and calves allow for flexion. Your hip adductors and abductors do not directly control the knee but aid in joint stability. Weak adductors and abductors can increase the pressure placed on the knee. Exercising with foam rollers improves the ability of the knee to keep you moving comfortably.
Common Knee Ailments
Given the knee is a joint responsible for regular daily movement and body weight support, injuries are common. Two common knee conditions that respond to treatment with foam roller exercises are iliotibial band, or ITB, syndrome and patellofemoral pain syndrome. Iliotibial band syndrome causes pain in the outer area of the knee and occurs when the iliotibial band rubs against the outer part of the knee. This creates inflammation and tissue damage. Patellofemoral pain syndrome occurs due to inflammation of the patellofemoral joint, which is located between the kneecap, or patella, and the femur. Weak quadriceps contribute to this condition.
Lie on your side with the foam roller underneath your outer thigh. Place your hands flat on the floor with your arms straight, supporting your upper body. Using your arms to move your body, slowly roll your outer thigh over the roller. Continue rolling your body back and forth for 15 to 90 seconds.
Lie on your stomach and place the foam roller under your upper thighs. Support your upper body on your elbows and forearms. Roll your body back and forth. The goal is for the roller to make contact from your hip to your mid-thigh. Slightly bend your knee to increase pressure. Perform this roll for 30 seconds.
Other Leg Exercises and Considerations
Similar rolling exercises target the hamstrings, calves and hips. All of these exercises place pressure on the muscles with the idea of promoting circulation and targeting possible muscle knots. You should not experience pain when preforming them. If you do, discontinue the exercise and consult a physician or physical therapist. Consult your physician before beginning any new exercise program.
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