Foam Rolling – The Facts

With the marathon season, arrival of spring and lighter evenings, many more of us are going to want to get out in the great outdoors and exercise. Whether this may be running, cycling, climbing or rambling, the fact is with increased demands placed on the body there will be a higher chance of sustaining an injury. One of the ways to help prevent injury is a daily Self Myofascial Release programme via the use of a foam roller.

Self Myofascial Release is a form of bodywork and stretching/self treatment that can help increase posture, flexibility and reduce stress, tension and pain whilst enhancing athletic performance, energy levels and body awareness. With educating athletes to perform self massage they can increase blood flow to muscles, reduce stress and possibly increase joint range of motion and soft tissue flexibility. Many of the exercises available lend themselves to core stability, decreased risk of injury and relaxation.

The Benefits Of Foam Rolling

A lot of injuries that occur are as a result of overuse and faulty movement patterns that are often a result of compensations and lack of joint and soft tissue flexibility. These fascial restrictions can result in;

  • muscle tightness restricting joint ROM
  • Restrictions create alterations in movements
  • This alters ‘normal’ feedback to the central nervous system
  • The efficiency of the movement is altered and compromised
  • This can lead to faulty movement patterns
  • Early fatigue
  • Injury

Other benefits of foam rolling are:

  • Help correct known muscular imbalances
  • Improve joint ROM especially pre activity as well as post activity
  • Decrease pre-workout muscle soreness due to DOMS
  • Increases neuromuscular efficiency
  • Assist in the maintenance of normal functional muscle length
  • Relieve stress

Selecting Your Foam Roller

When deciding on your foam roller, product density is important. Different parts of the body respond differently to varying pressures. If the foam roller is too soft then a less than adequate massage is applied. A roller that is too hard may result in bruising and more advanced soft-tissue trauma may occur. This would then have a negative effect on ROM, the initiation of the inflammatory process, production of pain and decreased performance.

Many companies offer a colour coded scheme for their foam rollers with white usually being the softest and the darker colours often indicate a higher density. When using a softer roller ensure that there is no deformity within the apparatus as this will cause uneven rolling.

General Guidelines for Rolling

  • Position yourself on the foam roller for optimal benefits by lying or sitting in a position that will allow you to roll approximately 3 inches in either direction.
  • Hold the body on areas where tension is present
  • Mild discomfort is expected
  • Hold each challenging position for between 30 seconds and 1 minute
  • If pain is reported then stoprolling as continuing to roll when pain is present activates the muscle spindles which may increase muscle spasm and possible injury
  • REST on the painful areas. Applying this technique for approx. 20-30 seconds on tight or painful areas will stimulate the Golgi tendon organs and auto genetically inhibit the muscle spindles. This should reduce muscular tension and pain.
  • Maintain proper draw-in position or abdominal bracing which will in turn provide stability to the lumbo-pelvic-hip complex during rolling.
  • Athletes can perform a self myofascial release programme 1-2 times daily
  • Stretch the worked muscles after each rolling session.

Three Take-Away Messages

Normal daily physical activities can lead to stress in the muscles and joints of the body. Using a foam roller can assist in the relaxation and flexibility easily in a low intensity workout. When performing a foam rolling movement the correct density should be applied dependant on the needs of the athlete. Deformed or damaged foam rollers need to be replaced.

Foam rollers can be used for increasing core stability as well as self massage, spinal alignment and as an integral part of a cool down programme.

I hope this blog gives you an insight into foam rolling and also a few tips on what to do and some considerations when using your roller. If you’d like to know more, just give us a call on 0115 981 5134. Happy rolling!

Posted in Injury Prevention, Self care, Sport
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