The Foam Roller has become a very popular piece of equipment with all athletes in recent years. Many athletes swear by it and often swear while using it!!
There is some research out there to support the use of the roller. McDonald et al (2012) found that performing Self Myofascial Release with a foam roller on the quadriceps muscles improved range of movement without impairing muscular performance.
What does using a foam roller actually do?
Muscles are surrounded by a soft tissue known as fascia. It is thought that this tissue can influence flexibility and joint range of movement. Research suggests that using a foam roller is a form of “Self Myofascial Release” and that it makes the fascia more flexible and breaks down scar tissue and adhesions.
Which one should I buy?
McDonald et al (2012) used a roller with a hollow but solid PVC core surrounded by a layer of neoprene foam and had very positive results.
In short, it appears the hollow but solid core design is more effective than the traditional foam roller as it appears to place higher pressure on the fascia. The Trigger point Muscle Foam Roller is very beneficial and can be ordered from your Physiotherapist at Advanced Physio West.
How long should I use it for?
Most research advocated using the roller for just 2 minutes in the form of 2 x 1 minute sessions separated by a rest period of 30 seconds. Other research suggests between 1 and 5 minutes on each muscle group or working until a sensation of release is felt.
The guidance from the research on this is far less clear. In fact, as with many things, there is a lack of in depth research in this area. Most studies seem to focus on the acute effects of using a foam roller rather than long term useage. Miller and Rockey (2006) used the foam roller 3 times per week over 8 weeks but offered no justification in the research as to why. This can hardly be used as guidance considering they also didn’t report any beneficial effects!
I would suggest a frequency of 2-3 times per week is usually adequate in most cases but you can increase this to as much as 2-3 times per day providing it isn’t increasing your pain levels and you make this change gradually.
What’s the technique?
There are numerous ways to roll, with many videos on YouTube to look at if you want specific ideas for certain muscles. McDonald et al (2012) proposes the following technique:
1. Place as much of your body mass as possible on the foam roller (within pain limits).
2. Begin at the proximal part of the muscle (the part closest to the body) and roll down the length of the muscle using short kneading like motions.
3. One you’ve covered the length of the muscle quickly return to the start position moving the roller in once fluid motion.
4. Roll the length of the muscle 3-4 times within each 1 minute session.
Using the roller when injured
I haven’t found any convincing research on the use of the foam roller to manage specific injuries. However, from experience, I find that certain hip, knee and ankle injuries benefit from its use.
Foam Rolling can be beneficial for:
Does using the roller impair muscle performance?
One of the key findings of McDonald et al (2012) was that the roller increased flexibility without reducing muscle performance. Other studies have reported similar findings. As a result some have recommended it as a part of a warm to improve flexibility prior to exercise.
Other uses of the Foam Roller?
With a longer Foam roller, I often get patients to use is as a postural stretching device. It’s great for stretching the chest and shoulder areas.
If you would like more information on Foam Rolling or to arrange an appointment with the Physiotherapist at Advanced Physio West in Roscommon or Galway, please phone 090 6626023/ 086 3758169 or book online
Article by Paul Lennon (Physiotherapist)