For an effective massage without the hefty price tag, look no further than a foam roller. Combined with your body weight, this simple cylinder , all from the comfort (er, more on that in a bit) of home. While it requires a little more effort than relaxing on a table, foam rolling is good for those looking to relieve pain and prevent injury without the pampering.

Rock 'n' Roll — The Need-to-Know

Foam Rolling Image: Trigger Point Performance

Foam rolling is a popular form of self-myofascial release (SMR), a type of that focuses on the nerves and connective tissue (or fascia) between muscles. Due to , muscle fibers and fascia can become knotted together and, if left untreated, this condition can cause a buildup of movement-impairing scar tissue.

Foam rolling, massage, and other myofascial release techniques use direct pressure to . And since a , foam rollers are more than worth their (admittedly light) weight in preventative gold.

Roll the Pain Away — Your Action Plan

While it's effective at reducing pain in muscles like the quads and hamstrings, foam rolling is not a substitute for orthopedic care after a significant muscle tear. Self-massage techniques might also be significantly more effective at , though suggests benefits for chronic pain sufferers as well. Nor is it recommended as a solution for people with . Otherwise, foam rolling . And it’s especially useful as part of a workout .

Place the targeted muscle group on top of the foam roller, apply gentle pressure, and slowly roll along the trouble spot. If a particular area is tight or painful, pause over it for 20-30 seconds, pulsing on and off until tenderness has subsided. Disclaimer: If it hurts like hell, it's probably working.

The foam roller may put a dent in tight muscles, but it won’t leave a huge mark on the pocketbook. Foam rollers aren’t the only tool in the SMR trade, though. For more targeted muscle therapy, try a tennis or lacrosse ball, , or a and, hey, let the good times roll.

Originally published June 2011. Updated April 2012.

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