Recently, I've seen some videos floating around that promote foam-rolling as a way to cure tendon and fascia pain. While this isn't exactly true - foam-rolling can help prevent problems from happening in the first place, but won't cure anything once the problem has occurred - foam-rolling is still a great idea and should definitely be on everyone's list of body-work that they do on a regular basis.
If you're not familiar with foam-rolling, here's a brief explanation:
Basically, a foam-roller is, well, a tube of fairly dense styrofoam. That's it. Rollers come in various sizes and lengths, but the most common ones are about three feet long and six inches or so in diameter. Most gyms have them now, and they're generally encased in blue vinyl covers for ease of washing and so on. The idea is that as you exercise, age, go about your daily activities (okay, as you live), you develop small areas of pain here and there in your body. The pain comes from something called adhesions, which are places where the fibers in your muscles don't slide smoothly alongside each other like they're supposed to, but instead get stuck together, thus creating pain when you try to move in certain ways. A good physiotherapist can massage these away for you, but with a foam-roller you can do it yourself by placing the affected bodypart on the roller and rolling back and forth a few times with a bit of pressure to break up the adhesion.
Amazon sells foam-rollers, although most of them are a little less rigid than the usual gym version. This is actually good for people who are new to foam-rolling, as the practice tends to hurt quite a bit in the beginning, and a softer roller can limit the pain. But once you're used to it, a soft roller won't do you as much good as a hard one.
On the other end of the scale is this monster. It is not for the faint of heart. It looks - and can feel - like something out of Torquemada's dungeon, but it will absolutely destroy any adhesions you might have. If you can stand the pain, that is.
|The RumbleRoller is specifically optimized for myofascial release. And pain.|
In-between are the regular gym rollers. But if you want something that you can use around the house...as well as pack into your gym bag...as well as easily store away...as well as use for other purposes, then investing in a pair of FatGripz might be the way to go. I realize that readers of this blog are generally runners, but many of you work out in the gym as well, and Fatgripz are one of the best ways to do great things for your arms. Not to mention the fact that if you've developed tendon or fascia pain in your feet or ankles, there's a good chance that you might end up with it in your arms and shoulders as well. (Some people are genetically more predisposed to developing connective tissue pain than others.) Fatgripz can virtually eliminate this possibility by changing the thickness of the typical gym barbell so that your hands don't always close to exactly the same degree each time.
It's kind of hard to roll a small tendon like the peroneal or post tibial, but for the plantar fascia or achilles tendon, foam rolling can be just the ticket to prevent injuries before they happen. If you've already had an injury and have completely recovered, foam rolling can also go a long way toward making sure that injury doesn't come back again.
But you don't need a six-foot long roller to get at the soles of your feet or your ankles. And if you do buy a regular foam roller, you really can't use it for anything other than, well, foam rolling. FatGripz, on the other hand, are much more versatile.
FatGripz come in sets of two, and they are 2.25" thick plastic attachments that you can put on a regular barbell to make it into a "fat bar". Why would anyone do this? According to the company using FatGripz will increase both the strength and the size of your arms. (It's harder to grip a fat bar than a regular one, causing the arm muscles to work harder even if you're doing the same exercises.) For tendon purposes, having a choice of widths for your barbells is an excellent way to prevent repetitive stress injuries – especially in your forearms – if you spend much time in a gym,.
But here's the other advantage. You can take one FatGrip, slide a broomstick through it, and make your very own "foam" roller. While it won't really do for large areas like the back, the small size makes it ideal for rolling the major tendons and fascia of the ankles and feet. And it's a bit harder than your usual foam roller, which is nice. (If you want a softer version, just wrap a towel around the FatGrip.)
Here's a picture:
The smaller diameter of Fatgripz doesn't make much difference when you're rolling, and unlike a lot of regular foam rollers, they come with a 60-day money-back guarantee. So if for whatever reason you don't like the things, you can return them for a full refund.
But honestly speaking, I don't know anyone who's returned them. They work great for their intended purpose (in fact, they were named "Training Tool of the Decade") and – as described above – they also can serve double-duty as a localized foam roller for smaller bodyparts like the soles of the feet. Check out the website here. You won't be disappointed.