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According to the Institute of Medicine of The National Academies, nearly 100 million Americans live with chronic pain. And according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), many U.S. adults report pain in multiple parts of the body — and nearly 20 percent struggle with knee pain.
One thing that can help: myofascial release, a technique that involves applying gentle, sustained pressure into the body's connective tissue to eliminate pain and restore motion. One way to do this is with a foam roller. Pressure from the foam roller can release tension trigger points and knots.
Here are three foam roller exercises that focus on all of the major muscles surrounding the knee, which can help to alleviate pain:
1. IT band stretch
Place the foam roller on the outside of your thigh. Line your body parallel to your mat, as if you're going to do a side plank on your forearm.
The IT band runs down the outer side of your thigh and rolling it might be painful in the beginning. Reduce the pressure by putting more weight on your supporting arm and leg, if this feels too painful at first. Roll slowly down your IT band until you reach just above your knee, then roll back and forth slowly about three to 10 times. Remember to breath and try to relax in spite of the discomfort. Be mindful not to roll your knee!
2. Quad stretch
The quadriceps are responsible for leg and hip extension. Foam roller exercises for the quads will alleviate muscular tension, limber the muscle and work out any knots or trigger points for improved soft-tissue quality.
Begin by supporting your body weight in a forearm plank position with a foam roller between your quads and the floor. Roll the quad muscles from the hip down to the knee. Pause and hold on any tight or painful areas.
To reduce the amount of pressure applied to the muscle, you can train one leg at a time. Repeat the motion three to 10 times, forward and back.
3. Hamstring stretch
Begin by sitting up, supporting your body weight with your hands, and placing the foam roller under your hamstrings. Feet should be straight in front, with back straight. Engage your core.
Slowly roll back and forth from the glutes to the knee, pausing on any tight spots in the muscle until the pain goes away.
As the hamstrings have a much bigger surface area than muscles like the calves, your body weight will be more distributed and the foam roller exercise less effective. To counter this, simply train one leg at a time, supporting one leg on top of another to emphasize one side. Repeat the exercise on each leg for three to 10 times, rolling forward to backward.
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