Muscle pain can be the result of tight fascia. Fascia is a thin layer of connective tissue, surrounding your organs, bones, and blood vessels. 90% of nerve receptors responsible for sending pain signals to the brain come from fascia, not muscle. Let's take a look at how foam rolling can help release fascia and ease pain.
Foam rolling can be used to speed up muscle recovery, providing instant relief from pain.
Applying body weight to the tool puts pressure on soft tissue, acting as a deep massage.
Foam rollers come in different sizes and surface textures, such as smooth, ridged, low density or firm. Each type provides different benefits, depending on the desired outcome.
Foam rolling can release trigger points in the body. These points can be limiting factors to your movement.
The benefits of foam rolling may be time limited, with results usually lasting around ten minutes after using the tool.
What is foam rolling?
Trigger points, also known as knots, describe areas of tight muscle. This tightness can limit movement, leaving you feeling tense in that area and potentially causing you pain. Releasing trigger points before a workout can improve your range of motion within a joint — thus allowing you to move with greater ease and less pain.
Is foam rolling effective?
Foam rolling has varying rates of efficacy depending on when you use it and what you use it for.
- Performance. Foam rolling may improve muscular performance and flexibility. Evidence has shown foam rolling prior to exercise instead of after is more effective for improving performance and flexibility.
- Relief. You may experience instant relief from muscle soreness.
- Frequency. Foam rolling should be done frequently to feel a difference. As long as you are using the tool correctly, it is safe to foam roll every day.
- Area. Foam rolling can provide relief to larger trigger point areas such as the back of the thighs.
Can foam rolling improve flexibility?
There have been studies which show that using a foam roller can increase short term flexibility. The instant relief of tightness can temporarily improve range, however the muscles will soon coil back to their regular state. These short term benefits from foam rolling may be due to the fascia loosening up, scar tissue breaking down, and an increase in blood flow to the muscles.
Should I foam roll before or after a workout?
Deciding whether to foam roll before or after a workout depends on your goal. If you are doing a stretch class, foam rolling prior can help improve muscle elasticity. Relaxing your muscles before class will better prepare them for stretching. One study showed that foam rolling prior to sprinting improved performance by 0.7% and increased flexibility by 4%.
Top 5 exercises with a foam roller
The exercises below are easy to implement into your routine. Follow these simple steps to start using your foam roller today.
1. Thoracic extension
Thoracic extensions can serve as a great tool to identify mobility issues.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor.
- Position your roller under the midsection of your spine.
- Interlace your hands behind your head, gaze through your legs.
- Keep your upper spine slightly rounded forwards in a ‘C’ shape.
- Gently lower your head back into your hands, bringing your spine into a slight extension.
- Relax into this position. Hold for around 30 seconds to one minute. Focus on your breathing.
2. Glutes release
Foam roller can help you release the tension in your glutes.
- Sit on your foam roller with your legs bent, feet under knees.
- Place your hands behind you, fingertips facing away from you. Keep your spine upright.
- Shift your weight onto your right glute by leaning into the roller on that side.
- Extend your right leg out so it is straight.
- Shift your weight forwards and back, massaging your right glute.
- Your left foot will act as your stabilizing leg, keeping you balanced.
- Roll for one minute. Repeat on the other side.
3. Calf massage
Use foam roller to massage your calves.
- Sit on your glutes with a long spine, legs extended out in front of you.
- Place the foam roller under your right calf muscle. Place your hands behind you, fingertips facing away.
- Press into your hands, using your arm strength, until your glutes are lifted off the floor.
- Cross your left leg over your right, increasing the pressure to the foam roller.
- Gently rock forwards and back, shifting your body weight.
- Repeat for one minute and then switch to your second side.
4. Quad massage
Here's how you can perform a quad massage with a foam roller.
- Lie on your stomach, with your forearms beside you and legs extended out.
- Place the roller below your hips, under your quads.
- Tuck your toes and shift your weight forwards and back on the balls of your feet.
- Repeat for one minute.
5. Hamstring release
Follow these steps to perform hamstring release.
- Sit on your glutes with legs extended out in front of you.
- Place the foam roller under your right hamstring.
- Extend your arms behind you with fingertips facing towards you.
- Press into your hands until you lift your glutes off the floor. Cross your left leg over your right.
- Shift your weight forwards and back onto the roller, massaging the hamstring.
- Repeat for one minute. Switch to your second side.
Foam rolling can be a great way to enhance a well-rounded movement practice. Improving flexibility by stretching will provide lasting, and more significant changes to muscle elasticity than foam rolling alone.
- Frontiers in Physiology. A meta-analysis of the effects of foam rolling on performance and recovery.
- Life. Fascia mobility, proprioception, and myofascial pain.
- Work. Home based fundamental approach to alliviate back pain using myofascial release, stretching, and spinal musculature strengthening during Covid-19 pandemic.