SHOULD I USE A FOAM ROLLER ?

There is a lot of conflicting research as to effectiveness of using foam rollers. The article today will investigate research and give practical application on how to best utilise foam rollers.

Nowadays, practically every gym floor is covered by different shapes and sizes of foam rollers. The self-massaging tool was introduced to the world in the 1980’s on Broadway. Indeed, dancers needed to be at their best form every night, therefore muscle soreness had to disappear fast, which lead them to be part of a experiment. As time went by, and the dancers gave positive feedback, it caught the eye of weightlifters in the 1990’s. Today, according to research, the portable cost efficient “personal masseuse,” is at center stage, known to increase athletic performance, flexibility and reduce soreness.

How are these 3 factors are improve is the question we are going to focus today:

DOMS (Delayed onset muscle soreness ) is due by damage to the muscles cells and connective tissues. Research is therefore limited to understand the changes in the muscles after foams rolling as they didn’t physically open the muscles to see the difference between pre and post intervention. Today there are different theory on how exactly the foams roller reduces the pain after exercises.

  1. Foam roller is sometimes assigned the name as  “myofascial release” . “Myo” is “muscle” in latin and fascia describes the soft tissue complexes of the connective tissue system. By applying your body weight to the foam roller is it said in research that the localized tenderness of the fascia is decreased which then leads to short term increase range of motion. It is showed, the short term differences in ROM is better than stretching but after a few minutes it reveals the same effect. In a nutshell the manual manipulation make the tissue more softer and more pliable explaining the increase of ROM.
  2. A other theory in research is that it is a neuromuscular response and not  a change in the proprieties of the connective tissue and muscles itself. When you think about it, it not that easy to change muscles propriety or everyday life would be pretty complicate. The studies suggest it is a sensory input just like rubbing your elbow after hitting it against the corner of a table. The sensory input takes over the pain input following a intensive workout .
  3. Finally research also suggest that foam rolling has the same effect as other manual technique like messaging or trigger points. It therefore decrease the inflammation and stimulates mitochondrial biogenesis. Again research is still lacking on the subject as it wasn’t directly measured.

What to take out of this post  ?

  • Foam rolling is good during warm up as it increases ROM and performance. It is also suggested to use it in between reps and sets during you workout.
  • There is still a lack of research on the optimal sets/ reps/duration to use the foam roller but as it has only short term effectiveness 3 sets of 30s is suggested.
  • Finally research shows that muscles soreness is decreased after using the Foam roller post-workout but the theory behind this theory is still unclear.

References :

Manual therapy on muscles damages :  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22301554

Foam rolling as a recovery tool : https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24343353

Foam rolling and ROM : https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23772339