Do foam roller exercises actually do anything?
If you go to the gym, participate in fitness classes or have received any kind of bodywork therapy you have probably used or seen others using foam rollers. Could something as simple as a firm cylindrical piece of foam actually have benefits to the human body?
The answer is yes! A foam roller can be a useful tool to break up myofascial restrictions and increase flexibility, decrease pain and prevent injury. For an excellent description on fascia check out: http://www.gotimetraining.com/benefits-of-foam-rolling/
It is very important to use the foam roller properly. To do this one can rest a muscle or muscle group on the roller on the ground. They can use their hands or feet to prop themselves up adding the appropriate pressure to the roller. Like a deep stretch there should be some discomfort but it should never get to the point of pain. A rolling back and forth action should be done very slowly so that the muscle fibers and any restrictions can be ‘ironed out”. The most effective time to do this would be post exercise as part of the cool down and before any deep stretching.
The foam roller can break up myofascial restrictions (knots/restricted areas in muscle) in a similar way that massage does. It may not be as specific as a skilled massage therapists hands but it can work effectively on large muscle groups like the calves, hamstrings, quads and glutes. Rolling over joints and bony prominences should be avoided since it can lead to injury. Instead, smaller objects such as a tennis ball or lacrosse ball can be used when rolling muscles in the back or other difficult areas such as; the neck, rotator cuff and soles of the feet. There are also various different densities of foam that can be utilized. Typically white rollers are softer, blue are medium and black are hard. You can choose your preferred density to treat gradually or more aggressively. For information on choosing the perfect roller for you this is a good article: http://www.wikihow.com/Choose-a-Foam-Roller
A routine of foam rolling and stretching can help elongate the muscles and keep them supple which will help improve function. A more relaxed muscle will be more flexible, have more endurance and power. It will also decrease chances of muscle strains during activity. Foam rolling is an effective tool for therapists to prescribe as self-care, it is also a tool for athletes and the general population to use to help them maintain the heath of their musculature and should be used regularly.
Keep on Rolling!