Examining the Science Behind Foam Rollers

Examining the Science Behind Foam Rollers
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Experts Say, “Yes!”

Sarah Kostyukovsky, a physical therapist at Physio Logic in New York City, says, “Foam rolling has been shown to improve range of motion, decrease neuromuscular exhaustion, and decrease post-exercise soreness.”

What you are doing with a foam roller is a type of modified self-massage technique. The roller is going to rotate over a major muscle group such as the calves, hamstrings, quadriceps etc., and the pressure and movement will affect your muscles and fascia. You will hear that word a lot, and it sounds like (FA-sha). What is it? It’s a fluid network that is like a bungee cord cushion between each cell in your body and the fibers are mostly made up of collagen, reticulin and elastin. Around areas such as tendons and cartilage they are dense. And a big part of the fascial network is encapsulated in mucopolysaccharides, a gel-like mucus that holds moisture. It is like a 3-D spiderweb netting or a connective tissue of fibrous glue.

Benefits from Foam Rolling

When you learn foam rolling you will be applying direct pressure loads to your muscles and tissues, thereby stretching and massaging the underlying layers; and fascia. It is known to have a lot of anecdotal success in that it reduces fatigue, enhances a range of motion and improves recovery of sore or overused muscles.

Peter Dipple, head of sports and massage at the London-based Ten Health & Fitness, says, “Foam rolling is a great way to help relax your muscles. Even those who are inactive could see benefits, as foam rolling exercises can help relax muscles that may have become tight from sitting at a desk all day.”

Like massage, foam rolling arouses pressure receptors and with being linked to the nervous system can even affect activity in the brain, key-in relaxation, improve pain tolerance, and reduce stress levels of hormones.

When and How Often?

You can perform foam rolling prior to a workout and it will improve your mobility. After a workout, it decreases muscle fatigue, tightness and helps to soothe muscles. It should only take about 10 to 20 minutes a session and you can do it once a day. When you find an especially tight area, work around it for half a minute. Always use slow rolls (there is no benefit to hurrying or having many spins). Soothing long strokes over the muscles is the secret. The more pressure or weight you exert on the roller, the deeper pressure it will exert so, to begin, start with a softer roller and work up.

You may definitely feel some discomfort when you start, but that’s because you are working an area of tension by applying your own body weight, but we are not talking about excruciating pain. If that’s what you are getting, stop immediately and get aid from a professional. It is not something to macho-out on. Since it involves stimulating the nervous system, you can affect your body’s heart rate and blood flow.

Choosing a Foam Roller

There are several types and you should study up. A smaller, softer roller between 18 to 24 inches is good for targeting most parts of the body and is easy to carry. A larger roller is more versatile and better for larger surface areas like the upper back and you can place it parallel to the spine.

Size aside, the density of the foam makes a difference: the firmer the roller the deeper the pressure, so start soft and get yourself adapted to the strokes, and make sure you are using it correctly before investing in the more professional models. Plus, people with chronic injuries or a disease such as diabetes should talk to a physician or specialist first.

There are lots of different models some have shells inside and some even vibrate. You will also want one that is impervious to sweat so it doesn’t hold bacteria.

For exercises, the best thing to do is go to YouTube and watch all the foam roller enthusiasts and athletes. Spend some time concentrating on where the roller is placed, how they support their weight, how many revolutions they do, how fast the move and how long it takes. Check it out.