Foam rolling has been touted to help improve joint mobility (flexibility), relieve muscle tightness and soreness and even improve performance. So is there any truth to these claims? Check out the information below to give you a better understanding of some of the benefits of foam rolling.
Research suggests that foam rolling does improve short term flexibility and joint mobility and therefore may be beneficial for improving joint flexibility as a warm-up. When performed on a regular basis, foam rolling has also been shown to improve long term flexibility.
It has been proposed that the improved flexibility from foam rolling may be due to altering the viscoelastic and gel-like property of the fascia, increasing intramuscular temperature and blood flow (via friction of the foam roll), alterations in the muscle fibres stretch receptors, and the foam roller mechanically remobilizing muscle and fascia.
Recent research suggests that foam rolling after exercise may help reduce the sensation or perceived pain associated with DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness).
Research has also shown regular foam rolling may enhance recovery following high intensity exercise.
Foam rolling has been shown to have better effects on muscle recovery when combined with static stretching after exercise.
As it is theorized above:
- the increase in blood flow,
- remobilizing of muscle and fascia and
- alterations in the stretch receptors (ie: reduction of tightness)
Foam Rolling and Muscle Performance:
The majority of research suggests that foam rolling does not enhance or negatively affect muscle performance. However, some studies have shown improvements in performance measures including speed and strength when foam rolling was combined with a dynamic warm-up.
- Both muscles and fascia contain receptors that respond to movement.
- Applying pressure to these tissues via foam rolling could stimulate these receptors to alter muscle activity through the central nervous system
Take Home Message:
Foam rolling has become much more popular in recent years, especially as part of one’s warm-up or cool-down.
There is still much to learn about the benefits and true effects of foam rolling.
However more research is emerging supporting the use of foam rolling as a beneficial addition to training programs.
So whether it is your lower body, your shoulders or your spine, talk to your physiotherapist to learn if this self myofascial release technique is right for you!
Stay tuned for some different foam rolling techniques for different parts of the body and some suggestions on when to use the foam roller, how to use it and how often!
~ Jacquie, Physiotherapist
1. Wiewelhove T., et al. A Meta-Analysis of the Effects of Foam Rolling on Performance and Recovery. Front Physiol. 2019; 10: 376. Published Online 2019 Apr 9
2. Cheatham, SW, et al. The Effects of Self-Myofascial release using a foam roll or roller massager on joint range of motion, muscle recovery, and performance. A Systematic Review. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2015 Nov; 10(6): 827–838.
3. Science for Sport: Foam Rolling. [online] https://www.scienceforsport.com/foam-rolling