Foam rollers have become a common form of self help when it comes to sports injuries and recovery, but do you really know how to use them to their advantage and what they are actually doing?
For those of you that don’t know, what are foam rollers? Foam rollers are cylindrical in shape and come in many different sizes and densities. The roller is put between the floor and the target area with the idea that the muscles is “rolled” to work on muscle and facia tightness, as a form of self-manual therapies and is regularly compared to as a deep tissue massage (sports massage).
So what are the benefits to you?
- Provide a portable solution to aid recovery and rehab to fit into our busy schedules
- Self massage when suits you
- You can control the pressure put through the muscles
But what does the research say?
To date there are a number of studies looking into the effects of foam rollers, these are most commonly small studies looking into the effects of foam rolling on flexibility. However there is very little research into its effects on improving performance, post performance recovery and injury.
The aim of the foam roller was as a self-myofacial release tool. The fascia (myofasica) is the dense, tough connective tissue that surrounds and connects every muscle and organ in the body. It provides a role in posture, circulation, force transfer, balance, coordination. Fascia has elastic properties that allow it to stretch and recoil when in its prime (which is far often not the case). Restrictions such as scar tissue and inflammation cause a pull on the fascia and effects the recoil properties. There are many treatments to address the restrictions with a very common one recently being the foam roller. However, due to the lack of research there is confusion amongst experts and therefore foam rolling is still just a theory, and more research is needed as to the mechanism of how the foam roller works.
There is however research suggesting the benefits of foam rolling.
- Increase flexibility – unfortunately only for 10minutes post foam roller. However has seen to increase long term flexibility when performed regularly.
- Increase joint range of movement
- Positive effects in a warm up when using along side dynamic movements – foam rolling on its own hasn’t seen to have any impact on performance positive or negative unlike static stretching which has been seen to reduce power, running speed and strength endurance. It has also had positive effects in one study that when rolling is used with dynamic movements it has increase the effects above. (Evidence however is weak)
- Speed up recovery – although very little research there has been a study to show decrease sensation of DOMs after exercise. There is also no research to suggest when the best time to foam roller is.
Is there a best practice to use foam rollers?
Unfortunately due to inconsistency of methods in research there is no consensus how best to foam roller. However there is a small amount of research that suggests 20s hits provides the same affect as 60s. After reviewing the literature I would suggest
- 3 sets of 30s
- 5 times a week (to increase flexibility)
- During the call down and couple of hours post exercise
After carrying out this review of literature I am going to carry out my own study to see the effects of foam rolling on DOMS and when is the best time to use a foam roller post exercise.
- Roll over boney joints
- Avoid rolling over the spine
- Foam roller for to long
These two rollers are foam rollers I would recommend that are currently on the market at an affordable price, and the foam roller I personally use and use with my clients. If you have any questions please get in contact.
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