What's Better than a $70 Massage? A $30 Piece of Foam . . . The Foam Roller

I don't write many product reviews on this blog, but I do like to tell my readers about items that I think will truly make a difference in their lives while saving them lots of money.

During the Christmas holidays, my parents introduced me to the foam roller, a dense piece of foam three feet long and six inches in diameter that you can use to massage and stretch your muscles. It comes in different sizes and densities and is made by numerous manufacturers, but the one I own is made by SPRI, is white, and costs about $30.

The technical name for what the foam roller accomplishes is myofascial release. According to www.myofascialrelease.com, myofascial release is "a safe and very effective hands-on technique that involves applying gentle sustained pressure into the Myofascial connective tissue restrictions to eliminate pain and restore motion."

What is the source of myofascial pain? The site says, "Fascia plays an important role in the support and function of our bodies, since it surrounds and attaches to all structures. In the normal healthy state, the fascia is relaxed and wavy in configuration. It has the ability to stretch and move without restriction. When one experiences physical trauma, emotional trauma, scarring, or inflammation, however, the fascia loses its pliability. It becomes tight, restricted, and a source of tension to the rest of the body. Trauma, such as a fall, car accident, whiplash, surgery or just habitual poor posture and repetitive stress injuries has cumulative effects on the body. The changes trauma causes in the fascial system influences comfort and function of our body. Fascial restrictions can exert excessive pressure causing all kinds of symptoms producing pain, headaches or restriction of motion. Fascial restrictions affect our flexibility and stability, and are a determining factor in our ability to withstand stress and perform daily activities."

Basically, all of this means that if you are experiencing pain, myofascial release may help alleviate it or even eliminate it altogether. To use the foam roller, you basically pick a muscle/body part, figure out how to put the foam roller underneath it so that your body weight is placing pressure on the targeted muscle, then start rolling from whatever part of the muscle is closest to the center of your body and slowly work outward. 

The foam roller can be awkward to use at first and, depending on what body part you are working on, can require some upper body strength to operate correctly. But I got the hang of it after a few uses and I suspect that most other people could, too. A nice side effect of using it is that because you often have to hold yourself up to use it properly, your upper body strength may increase.

If you are reluctant to get a massage because you can't afford it or are afraid to gamble a bunch of money on something that may or may not help you, the foam roller is a great alternative. It only costs about $30 and you can use it over and over again, as opposed to a $70 massage that you have to pay for over and over again each time your pain comes back.

For me, the foam roller has eliminated tightness and pain in my upper body that I suspect is the result of being on a computer all the time. It has also helped me get rid of muscle tightness in my legs, and I really notice the increase in flexibility when I am exercising. It took only a couple of treatments before I noticed dramatic results. In conjunction with what I've learned from The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook about eliminating myofascial pain, I have been able to effectively treat myself for everyday aches and pains as well as athletic injuries without having to visit a doctor, undergo expensive treatments or have invasive surgeries. The foam roller is a wonderful tool for getting rid of pain, increasing flexibility, and just feeling more comfortable whether you're working out, sitting at your desk at work, or relaxing on the couch.

Stock photo from Amazon.com

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The Ultimate Tax-Time Checklist

Have you started preparing your income tax return yet? There's still plenty of time before this year's April 18 deadline, but for those of you who have received all your tax forms in the mail and want to get this dreaded chore over with, my latest Investopedia article, The Ultimate Tax-Time Checklist, will guide you through the process.

Personally, I like to do a trial run and prepare my taxes early to figure out what information I might be missing or questioning the accuracy of. Since I own a house and a business, there are lots of details to attend to. Starting early gives me plenty of time to straighten out any problems. It also lets me know ahead of time how much I might owe so I'm not caught off guard come April.

Guest Post: The Cost of a Job: Where to Spend and Where to Save in the Job Search by Brendan Cruickshank

Searching for a job in today's market can not only be tough (due to the current economy and cutbacks in businesses), it can also be expensive! It adds a new twist to the old saying, "It takes money to make money." Luckily, some of the expenses associated with job hunting can be reduced or eliminated. However, there are others that should be incurred because they yield great dividends.

Here are some simple ways to be frugal while trying to find a job:
  • Group your errands and do them all at the same time to save money on gas or transportation costs.
  • Eliminate monthly Internet fees by using it at the library or a local job center.
  • Avoid eating lunch at expensive restaurants while going to job interviews. If possible, pack your  own lunch.
  • Save your receipts for your expenses because they could be tax-deductible.
  • Take advantage of LinkedIn.com to save money on networking costs.
By saving money in these areas, you can afford to splurge on helpful services to land you that new job. Here are a few to consider:
  1. Hire someone to write your resume.
  2. Costs to hire a resume writer range from a mere $30 all the way up to $2,000! When is it wise to save money and not pay to have it written? If you are fresh out of college or have worked for just a few years, check a book out of the library or use the Internet to step you through the process. If you have been in the work force for a fairly long time or want to totally change to a new career, pay someone to write your resume.
  3. Bring on a recruiter.
  4. Before you decide to hire (or not hire) a recruiter, you need to understand how they work and get paid. Companies pay recruiters to find job candidates. These recruiters work for free with qualified job candidates who are in their area of expertise. If you are looking for a job within your current industry, find one of these free recruiters. On the other hand, recruiters are also paid by individuals. Don't spend money on one if you are looking for a job in your same market area. If you are seeking to enter a different career, then it is definitely worth paying that expense. Those recruiters have intimate knowledge of their industry and their help will be priceless.
  5. Don't be afraid to travel.
  6. Generally, companies will pay for airfare and hotel costs for out-of-town job candidates. If they don't, this is a subtle clue as to how they view employees. Think twice before accepting a job interview with that company. If you are seeking a position that is at a higher level than your current one, be willing to pay your own travel expenses.
  7. There is no price tag for a professional network.
  8. The most productive costs to incur while seeking a job are your networking costs. You will reap huge benefits. Are there conferences, workshops, or professional gatherings with businesses and people in your industry? If so, spend the money and go to them! The people that you meet and the contacts that you make are invaluable. While they may not have a current job opening for you, they know who does and could introduce you and recommend you to them. There's lots of truth in the statement, "it's all about who you know."
  9. Sometimes we need a professional.
  10. A coach helps you define your goals, provides feedback on your strengths, and helps you define and hone your competencies. They can guide you in developing a successful job search campaign, and prepare you to be competent during a job interview, even teaching you how to navigate salary offers. It is money well spent to hire a job search coach in the following situations:
    • If it has been several years since you had a successful job search
    • If you want to transition to a more senior level job in your industry
    • If you are over 50 years old
    • If you need to land a job in a short amount of time
    • If you have been searching for over four months and are not getting job offers
    However, if you are fresh out of college or have only been in the work force for several years, save your money. Use free resources such as a business acquaintances or services provided in your community. Before hiring a coach, there is one thing to remember. Anyone can become a coach. They aren't required to take classes or pass national certification tests. Having the title doesn't magically bestow extra knowledge or special powers on them. Be very judicious and careful when hiring one.
It's important to be frugal with your job hunting expenses. And knowing the right places to spend money will give you peace of mind - and help you land a job!

About the author of this gust post:

Brendan Cruickshank (Vice President of Client Services) has been invovled in the online job search and recruiting industry for over 8 years and has acted in senior client services roles with companies like Juju.com and JobsInTheMoney.com. His advice is often sought on topics in employment and jobs trends from publications including the Washington Post, Forbes and US News & World Report.

Photo by billaday

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