Foam rolling (self-myofascial release) is a way to massage your muscles at home. It can be used for aches and pains as well as to improve joint range of movement (how far you can comfortably move) It may help to improve recovery following exercise and decrease delayed onset muscle soreness, (DOMS). Foam rollers reportedly improve performance by increasing flexibility and stimulating the muscles before use. The research into foam rollers shows they can be used before or after exercise without negatively effecting your performance, they don’t decrease speed or power as was once thought!
How long should you roll for?
Lots of athletes spend a long time on mobility and foam rolling – which is often wasted time! Rolling for longer than 10 mins will have no additional benefits and may actually make you sore. Warming up is important to increase body temperature and heart rate and so is mobility work. Stretching before exercise is a little out dated and has been shown to actually increase injury risk! Warm up and work on basic functional movements but save the static stretches until after your training/sport.
How do foam rollers work?
Applying pressure over a muscle will create a local stretch to the soft tissues (muscles and fascia). The effects of this stretching is a relaxation of the muscles, decreasing the resting tone or how tight the muscle feels. The really interesting part is how pain is reduced by this pressure. This occurs within the brain itself and effectively decreases pain throughout your body not just the bit you roll! (This is known as descending inhibition of pain.) Another theory is that rolling muscles effects local blood flow, essentially increasing the nutrients to the muscle and warming them up. Foam rolling has been shown to improve mood and has a psychological benefit to performance.
Foam rollers can be purchased in any sports shop and in some large supermarkets. They are widely available and cost from £5 each. If you don’t have one to hand or want to be more focussed a tennis ball can be used instead.
Need some advice?
The team at Shefford Osteopathic Clinic can help with lifestyle and fitness advice as well as alleviating aches and pains. Call us on 01462 811006 and start to live your life again.
This summary was produced by Andrew MacMillan, a registered Osteopath who was part of the Shefford Osteopathic Clinic team.