Product Reviews
Take Action
Back
SIGN THE PETITION

Fight for Fair Finance

Tell the administration and Congress to stand up for the consumer watchdog that protects you from financial fraud and abuse.
Take Action
Why Do We Have Campaigns?
We're fighting to ensure you and your family can get a fair deal in the marketplace, especially on the choices that matter most: health care, privacy, automobiles, food, finances and more. Join our campaigns and together, we'll hold corporations and lawmakers accountable.

Try a foam roller to relieve aching muscles

This inexpensive self-massage tool can help loosen stiff spots

Published: May 21, 2015 12:30 PM

Find Ratings

Q. My muscles are often very stiff, and stretching them out doesn’t seem to help. What else can I do to relieve the stiffness and achiness?

A. Try using a foam roller (available online, at sporting goods stores, and big-box stores like Target and Walmart for about $15 to $40). These simple cylindrical pieces of dense foam come in different lengths, but the most common is 36 inches, which is considered the most versatile model.

Want to beat back pain? Find out what worked for our readers. Also, see our pain relief guide to know what to take when.

To use it, sit or lie on the floor with the roller directly under the problem muscle, then slowly roll back and forth for 20 to 60 seconds, using your body weight to press down as much as feels comfortable. This type of self-massage technique, called myofascial release, loosens up stiff muscles and relaxes tight spots in your fascia, the thin sheath of connective tissue over muscles. Studies show myofascial release can also reduce soreness and improve range of motion.

In addition to a foam roller, a tennis ball can be especially helpful for an achy back or hip. Follow the same technique as with the roller, rolling the ball under the painful spots to work out the knots.

One crucial tip when you begin foam rolling or using a tennis ball is to start off slowly. Like some other massage techniques, myofascial release can be painful. Be sure to use your body to modulate how much pressure you put on the roller or ball.

Remember: The idea is to relax the muscles—putting yourself in too much pain may only result in them tensing up even more. To that end, start off by purchasing a smooth foam roller, and avoid the ones with pronounced bumps and lumps that cause them to resemble medieval torture devices.

Editor's Note:

This article also appeared in the May 2015 issue of Consumer Reports on Health.


Find Ratings

Exercise Bikes Ratings

View and compare all Exercise Bikes ratings.

E-mail Newsletters

FREE e-mail Newsletters! Choose from cars, safety, health, and more!
Already signed-up?
Manage your newsletters here too.

Health News

Cars

Cars Build & Buy Car Buying Service
Save thousands off MSRP with upfront dealer pricing information and a transparent car buying experience.

See your savings

Mobile

Mobile Get Ratings on the go and compare
while you shop

Learn more