If you have used a foam roller before it certainly feels like it's doing, well, something right? But does it actually work...? Will smashing your muscles improve performance or prevent injury...? When it comes to self-myofascial release (SMR), it's important to sort out the facts from the fiction if you want to get the benefits for your body!
#Truth - Foam Rolling Decreases Tightness
Foam rolling works due to one key mechanism of action, neurological tone reduction in the muscle tissue. By adding external pressure and movement back and forth in a regular rhythm through muscle tissue, receptors in the peripheral and central nervous system are stimulated and essentially take the parking brake off those tight and tonic muscle tissues. This results in the feeling of much looser and flexible muscles!
#Myth - Foam Rolling Breaks Up Scar Tissue
First, if a muscle, tendon, or ligament is torn or crushed, the body creates scar tissue to ‘glue’ the torn pieces together. This tissue is anything but soft nor can it be easily manipulated using a SMR tool such as a foam roller. Receiving Deep Tissue Sports massage to break down the scar tissue is the best type of treatment, then we can use SMR tools to prevent any further build up or re-injury.
#Truth - Foam Rolling Increases Range Of Movement (ROM)
By foam rolling and decreasing muscle tightness and tone you're allowing soft tissue to recover and operate correctly again. This will increase your range of motion post workout and allow the body to recover more efficiently.
#Myth - Foam Rolling Prepares The Body For Performance
Foam rolling prior to working out with the hope that it will improve your performance may be a waste of your time. As just mentioned, foam rolling during and post work out however will prove more beneficial to your recovery. It will help stimulate the active muscle pump of the body, clear out inflammation and lymphatic pooling, and tap into the neural recovery system by reducing local tone of the tissues.
Foam rolling can be a great tool to aid recovery when used correctly around training and matches/events. The key is knowing how it will help and in what context to use it! If you are relying on your foam roller to break up scar tissue or improve your performance however, you may need to visit a Remedial Sports Massage Therapist instead!
- Ashlee Rijnbeek :)