A Case for Foam Rolling
There has been a surge over the last few years at local gyms and clubs with clients using foam rollers in the stretching area. Alternatively, there are still lots of us who have no idea what a foam roller even is. A foam roller is used as a self-massaging tool and has been touted to help with performance, injury recovery and flexibility. But does it do all these things? Others will claim that rather than help it will cause tissue damage and can make performance worse! So, who is right?
Recent research has shown that foam rolling is beneficial. In 2014, Macdonald et al. did a study that included a group that used a foam roller after doing a controlled exercise while the others just did the exercise. The result of the study showed that foam rolling was beneficial in decreasing post-exercise soreness as well as increasing the range of motion. Other benefits seen from this study included the fact that the foam-rolling group could jump higher compared to those that did not use a foam roller.
So, foam rolling essentially decreased pain in participants and increased their performance!
In a similar study, Healey et al., showed that individuals who used a foam roller following an exercise of planking had a decrease in post-exercise fatigue in comparison to those who did not. Meaning they weren’t as tired following the exercise! The authors of this study suggested that due to the decrease in the post-exercise fatigue, participants would be able to exercise more frequently and therefore would lead to an increase in performance.
But can foam rolling cause damage?
If foam rolling is done incorrectly there is a possibility to injure oneself. When I have asked some clients in the past to show me how they are using a foam roller, I have seen some unstable and incorrect form. When watching someone use a foam roller, I am looking to see that they are not putting their back or shoulders in an unstable position just to get a stretch out of the muscle. There are always ways to correct these bad habits, and only a few simple corrections are needed to do it safer.
Another theory I have heard in the past from a good friend is that foam rolling itself causes damage to the muscle rather than helping it. Their chiropractor had told them that the compression on the tissue caused a decrease in blood flow to the area and therefore would lead to cell death. However, this does not seem to be supported by the research. A study by Okamoto et al. did a study measuring blood flow and arterial stiffness following a session of foam rolling and found that the arteries had decreased stiffness and the levels of nitric oxide in the blood increase. These results show that blood flow increases following foam rolling rather than reducing blood flow to the area.
If your goals are to decrease pain following exercise or to increase performance, then maybe implementing some foam rolling into your exercise routine is advisable.
If you are still on the fence on whether to implement foam rolling, set a measurable goal and see if foam rolling can help you out. If the aim is to jump higher and you seemed to have plateaued with your current training, measure your current jumping height then do a trial of 4 weeks of foam rolling every time you exercise. At the end of the 4-week trial see if there is a difference; if there is no difference then remove it from your routine. However, if it worked then keep up the good work!
Alternatively, if you feel you would like to exercise more often but every time you go to the gym or exercise your muscles just scream nonstop and are begging you not to move, try foam rolling the area you just worked out and see if the next day feels a little better.
There are a few ways to use a foam roller, and for every muscle group, the technique is slightly different. If you need a hand with how to use a foam roller without harming yourself maybe introducing yourself to somebody at your gym and asking him or her for assistance would be beneficial. Alternatively, you could always ask your chiropractor or other health care professional to give you some guidance in that area as well.
We here at Remedy Wellness can also help you with your foam rolling techniques, book in with myself, Dr. Ken Alexander or Justine Aichelberger for a private one on one foam rolling session or join our Foam Rolling Workshop taught by Justine where she will guide you through a series of foam rolling techniques that focus on different areas, allowing you to stretch muscles and tendons that can contribute to tightness, soreness, reduced flexibility and pain.
In this innovative foam rolling class, you will be guided through a series of foam rolling techniques that focus on different areas. Intensity levels will vary as the classes move forward. Here at the clinic, we have a variety of foam rollers as well as tennis balls, lacrosse balls, etc. to help you get into those tough to reach areas and target specific trigger points to decrease pain and tightness. Justine will work with you in a group setting, coupled with one on one interaction, to ensure that all exercises are performed correctly and effectively. Foam rolling can have positive effects for everyone, including:
-Athletes of any fitness level, from professionals to beginners
-Those recovery from, or currently treating an injury
-People who have an interest in self-treatment and body knowledge
-General overall tight muscles and stiffness
-Chronic pain sufferers
Feel free to book online through our website: www.remedywellness.ca or call Remedy Wellness Centre at 250-590-5221 where our staff can help book you in.
We look forward to seeing you there!
1. MacDonald G, Button D, Drinkwater E, Behm D. Foam Rolling as a Recovery Tool after an Intense Bout of Physical Activity. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 2014;46(1):131-142.
2. Pearcey G, Bradbury-Squires D, Kawamoto J, Drinkwater E, Behm D, Button D. Foam Rolling for Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness and Recovery of Dynamic Performance Measures. Journal of Athletic Training. 2015;50(1):5-13.
3. Healey K, Hatfield D, Blanpied P, Dorfman L, Riebe D. The Effects of Myofascial Release with Foam Rolling on Performance. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2014;28(1):61-68.
4. Okamoto T, Masuhara M, Ikuta K. Acute Effects of Self-Myofascial Release Using a Foam Roller on Arterial Function. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2014;28(1):69-73.
Dr. Ken Alexander
Dr. Ken Alexander is a Chiropractor at Remedy Wellness Centre in Victoria.
Remedy Wellness Centre
214-852 Fort St.
Victoria, BC V8W 1H8
M-F: 8am - 7pm
S: 9am - 3pm