how does foam rolling work

How Does Foam Rolling Work?

Foam rolling works by manipulating soft tissue to have beneficial effects. It’s a form of self-massage or ‘self-myofascial release’. Using the foam roller, the goal is to put pressure over your muscle and fascia (the connective tissue surrounding the muscle).

Who Started Foam Rolling?

It first began in the late 1980s, after Broadway star Jerome Robbins used foam rolling for his ballet dancers and was then later introduced to the public by Physiotherapist, Mike Clark in early 2000.

Current Research Says:

As more research becomes available, it has been suggested that foam rolling can:

  1. Release deformities in muscle fibres and fascia.
  2. Release trigger points.
  3. Improve blood flow to the surrounding tissues.

…However, as expected, researchers are still debating these suggestions.

The main questions that remain: whether the muscle or fascia is the most important target? Does a trigger point even exists? 

foam rolling arms

The Benefits of Foam Rolling:

1. Improves Flexibility

Recently we found out that static stretching can actually decrease muscle performance (if you didn’t know, now you do).

There is no evidence, however, to prove this is the same for foam rolling.

Foam rolling could, therefore, improve flexibility without decreasing your performance.

Other studies have shown that rolling a tennis ball under your foot can actually improve hamstring length, and that foam rolling one leg can improve ankle mobility in the opposite leg! How? This is likely because fascia is connected throughout the entire body.

2. Reduces Muscle Soreness

A couple of experiments concluded that in comparison to people who didn’t foam roll, people who foam rolled their legs for 20 minutes after 10 squats had reduced muscle soreness at 24, 48, AND 72 hours afterwards!

It’s important to bear in mind that this may not have the same effects with all types of exercise though.

3. Improves Recovery Time

A few articles have suggested that foam rolling after exercise actually improved recovery measures such as muscle activation and sprint speed,=.

However, a LOT more research needs to be done in these areas before we can take them as facts.

foam rolling massage

Our Conclusion:

From our research, we can safely say that we’re still not scientifically sure how or why foam rolling works.

We do know that it could improve flexibility and recovery, and reduce muscle soreness.

Until we find out more, make sure you don’t replace a dynamic warm-up and cool down with foam rolling, add it to your routine instead!

If you want advice on foam rolling, our expert Physiotherapists and Sport Therapists can help to get you back on your feet!

Book an Appointment today or give us a call on 01273 711 399 for some free advice.

DISCLAIMER: All content within this column is provided for general information only and should not substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. S57 Health & Wellbeing Clinic is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made by a user based on the content of this site.