**Check with your doctor before starting to use a foam roller.**
A foam roller is an awesome tool I’ve found for self-care and maintenance between massages. Here are some comprehensive and clear instructions and photos (ignore the title of the blog post…). Foam rollers are great for loosening up tight muscles, breaking up knots and adhesions and releasing fascia. They are often mostly used on the legs, glutes and hips, but I have also used mine on my pecs and arms. Keeping legs in good shape is important for athletes, but it also can help people who sit all day or have back pain. This is like the foam roller I have (I have the 6 x 36 one, but feel free to experiment if something else strikes you). It needs to be dense enough and not hollow in the middle. Start slow and easy. It is intense–especially at first. And it’s not so much about fast rolling as just slowly applying pressure. It’s also great to gently stretch after using the roller–you’ve loosened things up and now you can re-educate the muscle about its new length and ways of moving. Happy rolling! Let me know how it goes.
Edit 9/11/12: I saw a good foam roller at Bartell’s on top of Queen Anne recently, so check it out!