Why we should foam roll? Does it do anything?
Updated: Mar 5, 2022
Foam-rolling is the latest trend in self-massage and self-help in our gyms, physiotherapy or osteopathic clinics. How does it work? Does it actually help? Or can it do any harm? That's the topic of my post today. Let's go...
What is rolling and where did it come from?
Foam-rolling or self-torturing our muscles was pioneered in the 1980s by Moshé Feldenkrais. Created by Moshé Feldenkrais in the second half of the 20th century, the Feldenkrais method aims to reduce pain and mobility problems and improve physical functioning by increasing awareness of one's own body. It originated in the early 1920s when Feldenkrais, a physicist and martial arts master, learned to reduce knee pain and improve sports performance after paying conscious attention to his body's movements. Although its effectiveness has been questioned in recent years, there are those who swear by the Feldenkrais method in dealing with their own ailments.
However, the knowledge of foam rollers was not a secret for long. In 1987, physiotherapist and then Feldenkrais student Sean Gallagher began using foam rollers as a self-massage tool. Gallagher soon contacted Jerome Robbins, a well-known Broadway star, and told Robbins about the benefits of foam rolling on sore muscles. While supervising a group of dancers who had to be in show condition every night, Robbins asked cast members to experiment with foam rollers. To his great delight, the feedback from his dancers was overwhelmingly positive, leading to the introduction of foam rollers en masse for Broadway dancers.
Although it is a little harder to pinpoint who introduced foam rollers to the weightlifting community, many agree that the work of physiotherapist Mike Clark in the 1990s helped spread the message of foam rolling under the guise of what Clark called "his own muscle-flexion edition." In his writings before the millennia, Clarke created many manuals describing foam rolling for self-massage practices. This eventually culminated in the publication of Clarke's opus Integrated Training for the New Millennium in 2001.
How does foam-rolling work?
Foam-rolling is based on rolling individual muscle groups using a foam roller. Rollers of various sizes and hardness are adjusted to the rolled areas of the body and pain tolerance of the "rolled" person. There are various types and shapes of foam rollers, e.g. spherical, tubes, thin rollers, etc.
As I mentioned earlier about the pain of rolling I meant, the pain of pressure exerted by gravity by our body weight on the roller. In most cases, the foam-roller lies on the floor and we lie down on it, depending on what we want to loosen, e.g. the front of our thighs. Next, we move back and forth on the roller, massaging and stretching our muscles, which are often very sore. As a rule, the duration of one muscle part is 1-2 minutes, preferably after a workout or exertion.
Research by Junker, Daniel H.; Stöggl, and Thomas L. says: "The foam roller can be seen as an effective tool to increase tendon flexibility within 4 weeks. The effects are comparable to the scientifically proven PNF contract-relapse stretching method".
So self-torturing works, but can it replace a therapist? I think not, but it can be a super prewn and rehabilitation tool - if we do it correctly and sensibly. There are many books and courses on the subject from which we can learn muscle rolling. We can also ask our therapist to show us how to do each rolling exercise to avoid potential mistakes.
I highly recommend foam-rolling not only because I use it myself, but also because science confirms its effectiveness in the reduction of myofascial pain. So try it today and let me know how was it.
MacDonald, G. Z.; Button, D. C.; Drinkwater, E. J.; Behm, D. G., Foam Rolling as a Recovery Tool after an Intense Bout of Physical Activity. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 2014, 46 (1), 131-142.
MacDonald, G. Z.; Penney, M. D. H.; Mullaley, M. E.; Cuconato, A. L.; Drake, C. D. J.; Behm, D. G.; Button, D. C., An acute bout of self-myofascial release increases range of motion without a subsequent decrease in muscle activation or force. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 2013, 27 (3), 812-821.