Foam Rolling: What Is It and What Are The Benefits?

Foam rolling can be used as a form of self-massage or self muscle release. When we say we’re “releasing a muscle” what we mean is getting rid of those tight spots in muscles and connective tissue. While manual therapy performed by a physical therapist is the most effective way to break up muscle restrictions, you can make some great progress at home using a foam roller or a lacrosse ball. Here we’ll cover all of the newly found positive effects of foam rolling and how to use one.

Studies in the past two years show the following benefits*:

1. Foam rolling can increase the range of motion (ROM) of a joint. nimbus cloud When the quads were foam rolled for two minutes, knee joint flexion (bending) and range of motion improved.
2. Foam rolling was found to reduce arterial stiffness and improve vascular function in the muscle area rolled.
3. It improves recovery after exercise, as seen in the following ways:

  • Decreases muscle soreness
  • Increases muscle activation (similar to how React Physical Therapy activation exercises do this!)
  • Some studies show it increases performance as measured by vertical jump height.

4. It causes less delay in muscle activation time, which is the time it takes for a muscle to contract after the brain sends the message for it to do so.
5. Two minutes of foam rolling enhances flexibility as much as static stretching. Foam rolling instead of stretching before activity is preferred because it does not impair muscle strength for an hour afterward like stretching.

Now that you know some of the benefits, here are some tips and guidelines for foam rolling:

  • Roll not only on the painful area but around it as well. If you find that you cannot relax while rolling out a painful area, you should stop, and avoid that area.
  • Go slow. Your muscles need the time to relax
  • Maintain good posture. Do not contort your spine in attempt to reach a muscle. phyllis fierro nurse practitioner When you are supporting your body weight on one arm, make sure your shoulder blades are down and back and that your neck is relaxed in a neutral position. When foam rolling your quads, maintain somewhat of a plank position in order to not aggravate other posture muscle conditions.
  • Roll a muscle for at least two minutes and take that muscle through active range of motion to get deep into the muscle. For example, if you are rolling out your quads, bend and straighten the knee while on the foam roller.

Most of all, enjoy it, relax, and ask your React physical therapist for specific techniques for your condition and needs.
*All from articles in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.