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  • Writer's pictureHannah Foster-Middleton

Benefits of Foam Rolling

Do you ever notice that no matter how much you stretch, you still feel tight all the time? Have you heard that foam rolling can help you loosen up before exercise and speed up your recovery after?

A physiotherapist can guide you on how, when, and why to properly use a foam roller, so you get the results you are looking for in the shortest possible time.

Foam rolling is one of the most widely used physical therapy, fitness and athletics strategies. Unfortunately, this needs to be clarified on how and why to use it effectively. There are certainly times when foam rolling is precisely what you need but it is only one piece of a well-designed program to help you get the results you are hoping for.

What exactly is foam rolling? Most foam rollers are lightweight, cylindrical tubes of compressed foam or hardened plastic with padding. Foam rolling involves the individual using their body weight to apply pressure to their soft tissues during the rolling motion.

The rolling motions place both direct and sweeping pressure on the muscles. This action causes a stretching-type result while generating friction between the muscles and the roller. These results are similar to the effects of manual therapy techniques which is why it is considered a form of self-induced massage.

Foam rolling is used for many reasons, including increasing flexibility and joint mobility. It may help improve sports performance, reduce soreness after exercise, and eliminate muscle knots in some body regions.

Foam rolling is most commonly used during warm-up and cool-down routines to prepare an athlete for physical activity. It is also widely used in rehabilitation to reduce the effects of delayed onset muscle soreness and promote recovery from pain and injury. It has also been demonstrated that it is a highly effective way to achieve similar and in some cases better short-term results as stretching. 

Foam rolling is an affordable, easy and time-efficient technique to help people get the same benefits of a whole-body stretching routine in a fraction of the time.

There are some common misunderstandings about stretching. Stretching is a type of tension applied to muscles and/or tendons to improve elasticity and joint range of motion. Stretching is also used to help physiotherapists increase blood flow to an injured area and assist the healing process by aligning collagen fibers. The benefits of stretching have been exaggerated in fitness and sports communities. Unfortunately, there are a lot of misunderstandings about what stretching does and does not do. The common myths and misconceptions include:

Stretching will lengthen your muscle tissues: Our muscles attach to bone at specific areas, which never change, no matter how much you stretch. When you stretch, what happens is your tolerance to stretching increases which means the ability to reach further or go deeper into a position increases. Your muscle tissues are not getting longer.

Stretching will improve your performance: Studies have shown that static stretching before sports, especially sprinting, jumping and lifting may impair your performance, especially with balance and reaction/movement times.

Stretching prevents injury: Many people believe that stretching before exercise will reduce your risk of injury. There is no definitive evidence to back up that claim.

Tightness means you need to stretch more: This is one of the biggest myths about stretching. Tightness at rest is often a sign that what you are feeling is a referral from another injured area or a sign there is a weakness that needs to be addressed.

Stretching has a role to play and can help people feel better and improve their range of motion, but it takes a substantial amount of time and commitment to achieve the results. This, in part, is why foam rolling is so popular. Rolling in the short term makes it an effective way to prepare the body for exercise and to recover afterward.

Stretching routines should vary and are dependent on many factors, including age, your typical workout routine, the health of your joints, your strength, and even your gender. I recommend that you consult a physiotherapist to assess your movements to guide you through the most effective routine to help you achieve your individual goals and ensure your safety is the key to an effective program.


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