Foam Roller – What is it? What does it do? Help?
Written by Gavin Skurrie, Myotherapist & Exercise Scientist
We have all seen them, we have seen people using them and any store with a sporting section now sells a variation of it but what exactly are they? Foam rollers are a tool used primarily for self-treatment of musculoskeletal complaints made entirely, as the name suggests, from foam of varying densities shapes and sizes. Some contain plastic tubes inside them for a firmer treatment, whereas others are made with depressions and bits that stick out to create a more specific treatment. However they are made, they try to achieve the same thing, most commonly known as self "Myofascial Release"
Whilst the word "release" isn't entirely accurate for the application of this tool, I will continue to use it for this piece anyway so as to not create confusion. It could also be thought about as, self-administered tool assisted manual therapy.
Myofascial Release or MFR for short, aims to improve flexibility, decrease pain and dysfunction and soft tissue health. Applying foam rolling is relatively simple with only a few rules to remember; Never roll over any areas of extreme discomfort, slow and steady wins the race and in this case can achieve the best outcomes, never roll directly over bony structures and last but not least, never substitute foam rolling for specific manual therapy treatment (Myotherapy, Osteopath, etc). Foam rolling is to be used for minor aches and pains.
What does the research say?
· Induces an increase in short term flexibility (greater than 10 mins) but doesn’t affect athletic performance.
· It is hypothesised that some neuro-physiological factor is at play but we are unsure of how or why foam rolling works specifically.
· The most effective positions/techniques for any joint are currently unknown.
· Foam rolling MAY reduce perceived sore and increase pain threshold due to DOMS (delayed onset of muscle soreness)
As you can see, foam rolling still has a long way to go in terms of knowing is effects but in my opinion and experiences in prescribing it to my patients I have seen some great results, especially for such a cheap price tag!!
Whatever the outcome, I thought I'd share the common way of how I have prescribed self-administered foam rolling to the calf muscle for self-treatment.
Note: Please consult your healthcare professional prior to any MFR or if you are unsure about the application of these tools. Although foam rolling is generally a safe tool to use however, it is wise to check prior to self-treating your condition.
Step 1: Preparation
1. Starting with your leg on the foam roller, slowly take the weight of your upper body with your hands resting behind you.
2. Slowly roll the foam roller up the back of the calf towards your knee.
3. Return to the starting position
I tend to perform 1-2mins of rolling prior to moving on.
Step 2: Specific work
By now you may feel some areas of discomfort in the muscle. These can be known as trigger points or “knots”. We can specifically target these areas but applying sustained pressure to the area.
1. Roll up and down the calf until you find a specific area of discomfort.
2. Sometimes, the weight of the leg will be enough to create a stimulus, if not you can use the other leg resting on the shin to create a little bit of extra pressure.
3. Apply sustained pressure to the spot for up to 30secs.
4. STOP if the pain is extreme or you experience any change in pain and consult your therapist.
If you require treatment or have any questions, please feel free to make an appointment to see one of our therapists who would be happy to help.
Contact: 5221 1877