Over the last number of years, the popularity of foam rolling has grown significantly. For those of you who are not familiar with foam rolling, also known as self-myofascial release, it is a technique by which people use their body weight over a foam roller to exert a force over specific soft tissues. By manipulating their body position, they can vary the target as well as the amount of pressure directed at the tissue. Now that we know what it is, what is the research saying about it?
As it is relatively new, there are only few peer-reviewed research articles out there looking at foam rolling. These articles, however, point to mostly positive outcomes. A number of recent studies (1-5) show that a bout of foam rolling can significantly increase range of motion (ROM) at different joints throughout the lower extremity, while not affecting muscle performance (1,3,4). This is as opposed to static stretching as a warm-up, which has been seen more recently as controversial given the number of studies showing the possibility of an acute decrease in performance directly afterwards. As well as increasing ROM, foam rolling has been shown in three recent studies (6,7,8) to help with the impairments that might result from exercise-induced muscle damage after heavy bout of exercise. These studies found that the group who used the foam roller experienced less delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), better ROM, and better physical performance after an intense bout of eccentric exercise than the control group.
All in all, although the research is still fairly young, it seems to be highlighting a number of benefits associated with regular use of foam rollers. Want to learn more and see what the fuss is about? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to get a hold of your own foam roller.
1. MacDonald GZ, Penney MD, Mullaley ME, et al. An acute bout of self-myofascial release increases range of motion without a subsequent decrease in muscle activation or force. J Strength Cond Res 2013;27(3):812-821.
2. Button DC, Bradbury-Squires DJ, Noftall JC, et al. Roller massager application to the quadriceps increases knee joint ROM and neuromuscular efficiency during a lunge. J Athl Train 2014. [In press]
3. Sullivan KM, Silvey DB, Button DC, Behm DG. Roller-massager application to the hamstrings increases sit-and-reach range of motion within five to ten seconds without performance impairments. Int J Sports Phys Ther 2013;8(3):228-236.
4. Halperin I, Aboodarda SJ, Button DC, et al. Roller massager improves range of motion of plantar flexor muscles without subsequent decreases in force parameters. Int J Sport Phys Ther 2014;9(1):92-102.
5. Mohr AR, Long BC, Goad CL. Effect of foam rolling and static stretching on passive hip-flexion range of motion. J Sport Rehabil 2014;23(4):296-299.
6. Macdonald GZ, Button DC, Drinkwater EJ, Behm DG. Foam rolling as a recovery tool after an intense bout of physical activity. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2014;46(1):131-142.
7. Pearcey GEP, Bradbury-Squires DJ, Kawamoto JE, et al. Foam rolling for delayed-onset muscle soreness and recovery of dynamic performance measures. J Athl Train 2014. [In press]
8. Jay K, Sundstrup E, Søndergaard SD, et al. Specific and cross over effects of massage for muscle soreness: randomized controlled trial. Int J Sports Phys Ther 2014;9(1):82-91