Fads come and go throughout society; one day it’s cool, the next day it’s not. It is no different in the athletic/rehab world, with foam rolling leading at the forefront of current trends. However, while many are hopping on the foam rolling train, it is important to research if there is some validity to its presence.
The fact is athletes are not just walking around with foam rollers under their arm for looks. There are proven health benefits to foam rolling. Foam rolling is a type of self-myofascial release. Anatomically, fascia is a connective tissue network of collagen fibers that essentially holds us together. Fascia weaves throughout our entire body, stabilizing and separating every muscle, bone, nerve, artery and vein as well as all of our internal organs. When fascia becomes tight and does not slide and glide efficiently on other structures, we often experience movement restrictions and tension throughout our bodies. Posture, stress, exercise and other lifestyle factors can contribute to this. Enter – foam rollers.
Foam rollers are sold in varying densities, from softer foam to hard plastic, depending on your desired level of muscular pressure. By applying one’s body weight on top of the roller and slowly rolling out the tight muscle group, the deep compression assists in releasing the tight, restricted fascia, as well as working out muscular knots. This self-myofascial release aids in increased flexibility, decreased pain and tightness as well as increased blood flow to return and restore healthy tissue. Foam rollers can be used on large muscle groups, such as the back, glutes, thighs and calves. To release smaller, hard to reach areas (like in between your shoulder blades) and/or to specifically target a tight knot, lacrosse or tennis balls are a good option.
Below are several examples of foam rolling exercises.
While foam rolling does not replace manual, hands-on therapy, it is a beneficial tool that helps keep your body looser in between massage appointments. Consider adding foam rolling to your health care routine.