What is a foam roller?
It’s a cylinder of foam that we roll up and down on in order to achieve looser feeling muscles! They come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and densities. Some knobbly, some smooth, some frankly dangerous looking! With the idea that by rolling up and down on the target muscle we will be doing a form of self-massage which will help us to limber up.
As Physios and sports massage therapists we regularly encourage clients to keep on top of mobility at home to stave off aches and pains and rollers are often a tool of choice along with stretching, but why do we advise this and is there any evidence to say this is a good plan??
There have been a number of papers written which look at the use of foam rollers with one systematic review of studies evaluating factors like joint range of movement, muscle recovery and athletic performance.
Flexibility Good news is that we do seem to get some benefit in this department after rolling out however it only seems to be short lasting at around 10mins. However, when we persevere on a regular basis it does show that long-term gains can be made!
Performance We now know that static stretches prior to exercise are unhelpful and can hinder performance and as such we are always striving to find better ways to warm up to prevent injury and improve performance so why not look at foam rollers as an option? Well…….. the evidence would suggest that this isn’t too bad an idea as it shows that there is indeed some benefit in rollering prior to exercise (albeit this was one article with a small sample!). That said if combined with a dynamic warm up it certainly won’t do any harm and may do some good so why not!
Recovery Foam rollers are often used for this purpose and again unfortunately, there is a lack of good evidence to say that this is what we all need to be doing following exercise but there is some evidence that it may help to improve delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).
We use foam rollers with our clients all of the time as there does seem to be an effect on muscle tension and range of movement, subsequently reducing pain. Evidence wise, we always take it with a pinch (or sometimes a heaped tablespoon) of salt as the validity/reliability is often questionable, however the studies that are out there for rollering do appear to be mostly positive when assessing range of movement and recovery.
So…Should I use foam rollers?
Short answer: Yes- why not!
That said, there may be times where foam rollering isn’t appropriate, so you should seek advice before using a roller if you are unsure.
We always advise getting assessed by a physio prior to starting any kind of rehab programme for an injury so even if rollering can have its benefits, it certainly isn’t the only thing you need to do to get better! If you want to chat with a physio or our sports massage therapist about an injury or want to discuss rollering more please do get in touch. 01799530650 or 07399499959
You are also welcome to email us on firstname.lastname@example.org