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December 12, 2013. Yes, this is a Do-It-Yourself Gift. Is it as good as a great masseur or masseuse? No. But is it great when you need it? Yes!

Always available. Never needs an appointment. Tipping’s optional. So when yesterday’s hike turns into today’s muscle knots, give yourself a massage with this 3-in-1 Massage Roller. As gifts go, this might look a little kinky. But it really is a great Way to work out the kinks. Here’s how and why it works.

You know how it feels when a muscle’s tight and knotted. It hurts like heck to gently press it. You rub it, or get someone to rub it for you. Harder. Then even harder. Eventually, it relaxes and feels so good. Like you found the “release” button. And pressed it.

A massage therapist would call this “myofascial release”. A kind of therapy that releases muscle tension and relieves pain. By treating the fascia, the soft connective tissue that surrounds and connects muscles and joints. It’s protective and supportive, and it’s everywhere in your body. Layers of it surrounding every muscle and joint.

Fascia can become constricted or inflamed from overuse, like in a sports injury. Or from underuse – another reason you don’t just sit there. Then it affects nearby muscles by reducing blood flow. That causes tension and pain. At which point it’s time for a massage. Or the feel-good gift of “self-myofascial release”. To stimulate the stretching reflex of the fascia and muscle. Something you can do yourself when you can’t get somebody to do it for you.

After “overusing” my legs on the 20-mile Half Dome day hike, the foam roller did wonders for my quadriceps and hamstrings. Hurt so good I could walk up stairs without saying ouch at every step.

I love this 3-in-1 roller. The big outside roller with the smooth surface is what I’ve used. The one that slides out from its center is a softer, smaller diameter roller with a rippled surface for a gentler treatment. And inside that, there’s an even smaller handheld rolling massage stick. Great for tight calves after a long run or hike. $40 for the whole kit, including a how-to pamphlet and a DVD.

Way Better than pain. Way Cheaper than a massage. A nice, Slow feel-good fix. A great gift for someone you know well.

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3-in-1 Foam Roller and Massage Stick

Cost-Benefit Analysis
$40 for quick, easy pain relief. This study published in the Journal of the American College of Sports Medicine evaluated Foam Rolling as a recovery tool and concluded: “Foam Rolling substantially reduced muscle soreness at all time points while substantially improving Range Of Motion” of muscles and joints.

Get Down
I do this in comfort on a nice, soft rug. If your best stretching spot has a hard floor surface, you should use a padded mat. Here’s one that provides excellent cushioning and traction and is biodegradable and recyclable.

Stretch
To prevent muscle knots and soreness. “Stretching is too often neglected by exercisers pressed to fit workouts into their busy schedules. This common mistake can reduce the effectiveness of exercise because better flexibility results in better fitness.

By increasing your flexibility you can improve your ability to move around. You will have less muscle tension and your posture will likely improve. Most importantly, stretching after each workout reduces your risk for injury.”(American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons)

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