Seniors and Pain Relief: Should I Be Foam Rolling?

Blog Category: Health

As our bodies change with age, our muscles lose elasticity and our joints and connective tissue are prone to tension and cramping which can be painful. However, chronic pain should not be the norm. An inexpensive and easy, at-home treatment for persistent pain in older adults is foam rolling.

What is Foam Rolling?

Foam rolling is a self-massaging technique using a foam roller or ball. It is also known as self-myofascial relief.

By using your body weight and rolling various points on your body with a specially designed foam roller or ball, you can loosen muscle knots and relieve pressure on nearby joints. It’s important as we age to stay focused on keeping our muscles healthy, elastic and mobile. When your muscles are knotted and achy, it affects your ability to function normally.

A 2014 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning found foam rolling to be an effective treatment in reducing stiffness and improving blood circulation in muscles. As it grows in popularity, health and fitness experts are citing additional benefits seniors can gain when practicing foam rolling.

Health Benefits of Foam Rolling as You Age

  • Fixes muscle imbalance
  • Relieves painful muscle spasm
  • Relieves fatigue after exercise
  • Promotes normal blood circulation
  • Makes joints flexible
  • Helps repair muscles
  • Boosts muscle recovery
  • Re-establishes proper movement patterns
  • Decreases chances of injury during any activity

Foam Rolling for Myofascial Release in Seniors

This practice can increase circulation, help rehydrate and bring back flexibility in the fascia and myofascial.

What are fascia and myofascial?

Fascia is the layer of connective tissue under the skin; it has 10 times more pain receptors than muscles. A tight muscle, knot or feeling as if you pulled “something” is often the fascia. The fascia encases everything in the body (muscles, tendons, organs, etc.) and is typically where chronic pain lingers. Myofascia is your muscle.

As we age, our fascial and myofascial makeup loses elasticity, flattens and sticks together vs. gliding across one another. Foam rolling uses pressure and movement through rolling (similar to what massage does) to increase circulation in the area and release the fascial tissue.

Foam rolling can be a weekly part of your senior fitness routine, which should also include flexibility, balance, endurance and strength training.

Important Foam Rolling Basics

Follow these foam rolling basics:

  • Softer is better, especially for first-timers and as our muscles and joints age.
  • Start with 10 minutes at a time and slowly progress to what works best for you.
  • Do not roll joints.
  • Foam rolling shouldn’t hurt. It should feel good and help relieve aches and pains.
  • Ease into rolling in multiple directions, front to back, side to side and circles.

4 Foam Rolling Exercises for Seniors

Sources: Prevention magazine and Idea Fitness Journal 

Tight hips and buttocks, soothe sore knees

Use an 18-36 inch foam roller on a carpeted floor. Lie on left side with the roller under the left hip, right leg crossed in front, foot flat. Support upper body on left forearm, right hand on hip, with head in line with spine. Press into the right foot and roll downside of leg from just below the hip to above knee, stopping when you find a tender point. Hold, release, and repeat. Switch sides. 

Back pain

Use an 18-36 inch foam roller on a carpeted floor, lie face up with foam roller horizontally under upper back (below shoulder blades), knees bent, feet flat and hands behind head. Tighten abs and press into feet, lifting hips slightly to slowly roll from upper to middle back. Find a tender spot. Hold, release, and repeat. 

Arthritis pain in fingers and wrists

Use a malleable ball, such as a stress relief ball. Gently roll the ball across the top of the right hand, fingers splayed, from the wrist and over and between each finger. Repeat sequence on the left hand. Follow with straight-arm wrist extension, flexion, and rotation. Lift and splay fingers and hold 4 seconds, then gently close them around the ball.

Ankle range of motion and foot pain

Use a malleable ball, such as a stress relief ball. Remove shoes. Roll arch across the ball from front to back. Repeat 4 times from medial to the lateral arch. Lean arms and torso across thigh to increase pressure.

Before you start treating any form of pain, consult with your doctor, physical therapist or a professional health and wellness trainer. Ask for advice on where and how to foam rolling can help relieve pain.

Subscribe to Life Enriching Communities Blog

"*" indicates required fields

I am interested in hearing about:*