Before we can understand what impact foam rolling has on the body it is important to firstly understand the body itself.
Most people know what muscles are and what their function is, but if you don’t then here is a quick breakdown. Muscles are soft tissues found throughout the body that have a wide range of roles in the workings of the human body. Their main function is to generate movement. By attaching to specific areas of a bone or joint, the contraction or activation of a muscle will generate movement. Muscles also help to maintain posture, stabilise joints and maintain normal body temperature (muscle contraction produces heat).
Surrounding every muscle in the body is a thin layer of connective tissue called fascia. When it is healthy fascia glides smoothly over your muscles, it is flexible and supple. This allows efficient and effective function of your muscles, however it is easy for your fascia to become thick, tight and inflexible. Over exercising, inactivity, injury, trauma and inflammation can influence the fascia and prevent it from working effectively. The fascia often loses its elasticity and forms taut bands. When this happens people often report feeling tight, stiff, achy or that their muscles are not working as well as normal resulting in a feeling of weakness or fatigue.
Foam rolling or myofascial release as it is also termed uses a cylindrical piece of firm foam that is used to apply focused pressure on specific areas of the body. Rolling over the tight, sore area helps to release the build up of tension and tightness within the fascia and normalizes the flexibility and function of the muscle tissue. Foam rolling also increases localised blood flow to the muscle below it. This helps to prepare the muscles for exercise or helps to get rid of lactic acid that has built up during exercise thus reducing the effect of DOMS (delayed onset of muscle soreness) after a heavy exercise session. When overused muscle may also develop a tight, taut band of fibres called a trigger point. Trigger points reduce the contractility of a muscle resulting in tightness and reduced strength. They can also cause localised and referred pain. Foam rolling is an effective way of releasing trigger points.
After foam rolling there is typically a reduction in muscle soreness, an increase in flexibility and an increase in the range of movement of a joint. There may also be a reduction in pain if present prior to using the roller. Some people also report an increase in performance and less restriction during exercise.
There is also believed to be neurological effects of foam rolling with the stimulation of different nerve endings affecting the resting condition of muscles. However this is still being researched through clinical trials and as yet there are no clear, definitive answers available.
If you’d like to find out more about how foam rolling can help you, make a booking with a Physio at your nearest location. You can press this link to find your nearest location.