Foam Rolling: Is It Actually Beneficial?
Massage is a wonderful way to relieve muscle tension but it’s hard to do it to yourself. That’s where foam rolling comes in.
You can use foam rolling to warm up before a workout, cool down afterwards, and relieve tight, sore spots in your muscles. It’s great for athletes but it’s also a very useful tool for desk-bound workers with poor posture.
What is foam rolling?
You’ve probably spotted a foam roller at your physio’s clinic, your gym or a sports store. Foam rollers look like a short cylinder wrapped in brightly coloured foam with bumps and smooth patches around the outside.
You use your weight to press into the roller when it’s placed under your calf, thigh or glute. As you rock backwards and forwards, you’ll probably find a couple of spots that feel more tender than others. Those are the ones to focus on especially, pressing down into the roller over a bumpy bit of foam.
What’s the evidence for foam rolling?
Foam rolling is certainly popular. Type the term into Google and you’ll get over 65 million results. But plenty of things are popular online without being effective. So, does foam rolling really work?
The answer is yes, though we’re not yet sure exactly why.
Researchers at the University of Stirling tested the impact of foam rolling on people doing leg extensions. They found that people who did two minutes of foam rolling before the exercise found it easier than people who did nothing beforehand. Over 3 days, those who foam rolled performed better than those who did not.
Foam rolling may also help you recover from exercise by reducing muscle soreness. That not only makes you feel more comfortable (badly aching muscles aren’t pleasant!) but also improves your muscle function.
There is still quite a bit we don’t know about foam rolling though. We know it has short-term benefits but we’re not sure of it’s long-term effects. We’re not sure whether it acts on your fascia or your nervous system. We’re also not sure how best to do it. Should you spend 5 seconds or 2 minutes? Should you do one bout of rolling or several? We’re still learning.
What are the benefits of foam rolling?
- Increase blood flow
- Improve the elasticity of your connective tissues leading to improved wellbeing
- Improve your flexibility without decreasing your muscle strength
- Improve performance when combined with stretching
- Reduce inflammation
- Relieve soreness
- Promote relaxation.
Foam rolling may also relieve myofascial trigger points. Those are small spots of tightness in a particular muscle where the tissue has become thick and toughened. Sometimes there’s inflammation there too, which can worsen over time.
See what the client thinks of this. Some articles focus on it, others say it’s outdated.
Exercises to do with a foam roller?
So, how do you actually use a foam roller?
There are many variations depending on exactly which muscle group you’re trying to work. But the basic method stays the same: you put the roller on the floor and place your calf, thigh, glute or upper back on it. Then you gently rock backwards and forward for a minute or two. Those small sore spots will probably complain at this point! But the soreness will gradually ease as the rolling takes effect.
How The Brisbane Spine Clinic can help
As physiotherapists, we understand your body’s structures and movements. We’ll talk to you about any soreness or discomfort you’re experiencing and about your lifestyle and goals.
We can identify tense areas and give you a good massage in the clinic.
But we can’t do that every day of the week. So, what we do instead is train you in the effective use of a foam roller. That means you can reap the benefits of foam rolling at home.
So, if you’d like to learn how to improve your performance, reduce soreness and alleviate stress, then please make an appointment at The Brisbane Spine Clinic.
All information is general in nature. Patients should consider their own personal circumstances and seek a second opinion.