What Does Foam Rolling Do for Me?

By Nick Mazzone, PT, DPT, CSCS

 Foam Rolling has become one of the more popular health and fitness topics over the past few years or so. These tools can be found in many different shapes, sizes, and colors with varying textures and firmness to fit everybody’s apparent need. If you google this, you will find claims that foam rolling can help you improve range of motion, muscle strength and performance, and decrease pain. It is also often used as part of a warm-up and cool-down within an exercise program.

Who do I believe?

Well, unfortunately there are very few studies on foam rolling and its effects on our muscles and connective tissues. The following bullet points can be used as a summary of the current body of research on this topic:

Positive Effects of Using a Foam Roller

·      Increased blood flow

·      Increased tissue temperature

·      Better short-term improvements in range of motion versus static or dynamic stretching

·      Decreased sensation of pain

What Foam Rolling Will NOT do for You

·      Increase strength or power output

·      Give lasting improvements in range of motion when used as a stand-alone treatment

·      Lead to complete resolution of pain/symptoms when used as a stand-alone treatment

Let’s Discuss these findings…

As you can see, there are some benefits to using a foam roller, however I feel it is important that we clear up some of the common misconceptions on the topic…

Many people who use a foam roller use it in isolation as a method of improving their mobility. I understand why people want this to be true; foam rolling is much easier and less strenuous than stretching. Unfortunately, you will not receive lasting effects from foam rolling alone. While foam rolling will only provide temporary improvements in range of motion, we can take advantage of this temporary improvement by proceeding to perform static or dynamic stretching. With consistency, this can help to improve range of motion on a more permanent basis (although more studies are needed on this topic).

There is also no evidence that foam rolling increases strength or explosiveness during your workout, however one may argue that by utilizing a foam roller you are increasing blood flow to the area, and therefore, helping to facilitate contraction of specific muscles during exercise.

Foam Rolling may also help decrease pain by working to desensitize the area through repetitive stimulation and can help promote tissue healing by improving local blood flow.

How do you suggest I use the foam roller in my daily life?

·      In conjunction with a stretching program for improving range of motion

·      As part of a warmup routine, especially for activities that have high mobility requirements

·      As an alternative to pain killers for temporary pain relief

·      As a method of soothing sore, painful muscles after a physically demanding workout

 

Check out this video for a brief introduction on how to use a foam roller:

For more information or any questions, give us a call at 718-258-3300 or contact us today!

Resources:

Su, H., Chang, N., Wu, W., Guo, L., & Chu, I. (2017). Acute Effects of Foam Rolling, Static Stretching, and Dynamic Stretching During Warm-ups on Muscular Flexibility and Strength in Young Adults. Journal of Sport Rehabilitation,26(6), 469-477. doi:10.1123/jsr.2016-0102

Cartoon depicting man foam rolling retrieved from https://www.gq.com/story/foam-roller-tips

 

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Nick Mazzone received his doctorate in Physical Therapy from Stony Brook University. He has a strong background in strength and conditioning and aims to bridge the gap between strength training and physical therapy. Nick believes that a lifestyle centered around physical fitness and mental well-being are vital to one’s successes and happiness. For this reason, he educates his patients on pain science and helps empower them and motivate them to reach their goals every day. You can find him at Evolve Physical Therapy in Mill Basin, Brooklyn.