To Foam roll or Not to Foam roll?
Foam rolling has now become a popular self-managed myofascial release tool – only if you’re able to withstand the pain that comes with it! It certainly requires a lot of self-discipline.
You could say it’s similar to a self-massage, only there isn’t really a relaxation point. It’s one of those catch 22 moments… it’s good for you but it hurts. Foam rolling is something you have to persevere with to get maximum benefits… and it will have you feeling relief once it’s over.
Foam rolling works by softening the fascia that surrounds the muscle, commonly known as myofascial release. Fascia is defined as the fibrous connective tissue immediately beneath the skin, enclosing individual muscle fibres, nerves and organs. It’s similar to the casing that surrounds a sausage. By generating force on the tissue, foam rolling also facilitates neural network transmission, therefore increasing synaptic connection of the neurons.
The theory is, if you reduce the tension in the myofascial, you will reduce the overall tension in the muscle, and therefore reduce physical pain.
The most recent research states foam rolling can;
Basically, if you are exercising regularly, foam rolling can help to reduce DOMS and physical pain. It is in no way superior to exercise, but rather works in conjunction with exercise. Effective exercise prescription will increase range of motion and performance, above and beyond foam rolling. The evidence is not ground breaking. If it relaxes you and you feel relief from tension, DO IT!!
As an Exercise Physiologist, I don’t spend a great deal of time explaining foam rolling in a consult. However, I believe it has its place in the treatment program for a number of conditions. No patient is alike, no condition is alike, therefore what works for one person may not work for another. A lot of my patients have found foam rolling to produce therapeutic benefits, which tends to increase motivation and self-efficacy. It’s certainly not the most pleasant thing to do, but the potential pain relief is worth it.
In a nut shell, put the roller underneath the muscle that is sore, allow gravity to play its part – in other words, let your body weight drop onto the roller and roll slowly up and down the length of the muscle. Once you feel a spot that hurts, hold it there until you feel a release. It can be used on any part of the body, it just takes a little bit of creativity and practice to manoeuvre the roller effectively.
Remember perseverance always pays off!!
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