The Benefits of Foam Rolling

Foam rolling is maybe one of the most popular exercises used to relieve pain in the fitness and physical therapy communities. Foam rollers come in all shapes and sizes and may be found at any gym. There’s a good chance you have one in your closet or in the corner of your room. 

So, what really is the situation? Is foam rolling everything it’s made out to be? Fortunately for you, we’ll answer such queries in this post.

What is Foam Rolling?

Foam rolling is a type of self-myofascial release, which is essentially a self-massage. You can see the appeal because it’s simple, inexpensive, and can be done anywhere at any time. 

Adhesions and trigger points can form in our muscles and fascia over time. The connective tissue that covers and threads through all of our organs, muscles, bones, nerves, arteries, and veins is known as fascia. These are the results of our body being stressed and strained. The tension could be caused by physical exercise or simply by everyday physical demands. This indicates that our muscles aren’t moving and gliding as they should, resulting in pain, discomfort, and improper movement patterns.

When we talk about adhesions, we’re talking about scar tissue that forms in muscle fibers, between muscles, or in compartments. And when we talk about trigger points, we’re talking about muscles that have become too aroused for some reason. Excess chemicals and lactic acid are produced as a result of this over-excitement, which causes the muscle to become trapped in a contracted, shorter position. As you can expect, this causes pain and makes it difficult to move in the ways we wish.

Fascia Lengthening

You may have heard that foam rolling lengthens fascia, the connective tissue that surrounds and connects all of our structures. And this sounds like a fantastic opportunity, right? We can extend our fascia using a foam roller if it becomes tangled and tight, and we’ll feel less pain and have improved range of motion and strength. 

Is the fascia, on the other hand, truly stretching and lengthening? Fascia is primarily composed of collagen, which is extremely strong and resistant to tensile stresses, implying that it resists lengthening and stretching, as claimed by foam rolling. Because fascia is so strong, it would take a lot of force to break it – much more than your body weight on a foam roller. This is especially true in regions designed to be extremely durable. Foam rolling is most typically used to target the following areas.

  • the IT band (the band of fascia running along the outer portion of your leg, from your hip to your outer knee)
  • fascia in the lumbar (lower back) region
  • plantar fascia (the bottom of your foot)

To put it another way, the amount of pressure required to actually extend the fascia would make you scream in agony. So, contrary to popular belief, foam rolling will not help you exactly lengthen fascia.

Increase of Blood Flow

When you foam roll, you’re basically putting pressure to the tensed or adhesion-prone parts of your muscles. This pressure stimulates blood flow in the affected area. As a result, it aids in the removal of any waste products resulting from overtraining or the accumulation of daily movements. It’s possible that the relief you’re experiencing won’t last long. Foam rolling, on the other hand, can increase blood flow to these areas and so reduce discomfort.

Feedback from the Proprioceptors

Proprioceptive feedback is a feature of foam rolling that most people are unfamiliar with. The awareness of our bodies and joint placements in space is referred to as proprioception. It’s what permits our muscles to understand how much they’re being stretched, at what angle, and in what direction they’re moving. 

Muscles, fascia, and joints send impulses to the brain that provide us with this proprioceptive information. The use of a foam roller to stimulate these tissues may aid our brain’s reception of these messages. This aids the brain’s coordination with the body’s sensory and motor activities.

There may be regions of the body that don’t move or aren’t stimulated sufficiently in daily living. Because of this increased awareness, foam rolling these areas can help create better movement patterns. 

There is no such thing as a perfect tool, just as there is no such thing as a perfect instrument. To obtain optimal movement health, we need to include a LOT of various systems. At the end of the day, MOVEMENT is what delivers us what we want: lengthening, increased blood flow, and educating our brains to recognize optimal movement patterns. 

That isn’t to imply that foam rolling should be avoided or that it can’t be beneficial. Learning how to foam roll properly and for more than just your IT band or lower back will help you heal more quickly.

​​Are you experiencing body aches as a result of activities or exercise? We’re here to assist you! At Pro+Kinetix, we’ll do a thorough physical therapy evaluation to determine the source of your problem. You can avoid the risk of a  small problem becoming worse by making significant changes to your footwear and movement strategies. If you are experiencing pain, visit us at https://prokinetixrehab.com/ and book an appointment with us as we are here to help get you back to doing the activities you love!

AUTHOR

Dr. Ben Bagge

Pro+Kinetix Physical Therapy & Performance

"We Help Active Adults & Athletes Get Back To Workouts and Sports They Enjoy without surgery, stopping activities they love, or relying on pain medicine."
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