It’s probably safe to say that at some point in your fitness journey you’ve either seen, used, or avoided having to use a foam roller. Some people love the foam roller and incorporate using it into their everyday workout routine while others dread even the thought of it. However, foam rollers can be extremely beneficial!
What does foam rolling do?
Similar to massage therapy, a foam roller’s main purpose is to help release the fascia. The fascia is a web-like, fibrous tissue sheath that surrounds every muscle, bone, organ, vein, and artery in the body. It provides support throughout the body and holds parts together.
When you foam roll, you are actually performing a technique called ‘myofascial release.’ This technique of applying sustained pressure to a certain area helps to eliminate pain and restore movement. Myofascial release works by relaxing contracted muscles and improving blood circulation.
What are the benefits of foam rolling in physical therapy?
At Envision Sport, we utilize the foam roller for some of our patients and encourage them to use it in therapy and as part of their home exercise programs. These are the benefits we see from the foam roller as a physical therapy clinic:
1. Improved mobility – Foam rolling works to return your muscles and soft tissue back to their original, native foam – without knots! As you use the foam roller to massage your muscles, you are working out the knots within your body. When the knots are gone, your range of motion increases. 2. Decrease in pain – The sad truth? Although you may feel more pain as you foam roller, you will eventually feel less pain. Oftentimes, when you feel pain or muscle soreness in the body it is from muscles being too tight. Foam rolling helps to reduce the tightness! Also, think about how sore you get after a hard workout. If you take a few minutes after each workout to foam roll the muscles you just worked, your body will thank you the next day!
3. Improved flexibility – Most commonly for shoulder or IT band patients, using the foam roller before a workout can actually increase your flexibility. We are not suggesting you solely use the foam roller in place of your normal everyday stretching, but use it in addition to! If you’ve ever used the foam roller to stretch out your pectorals, you know just how well the foam roller works to improve your flexibility. If you have tight IT bands which limit your ability to stretch fully, you’ll notice a great improvement post-rolling.
4. Speeds up recovery – Who doesn’t want to heal quicker? After an injury or surgery, most people’s first question is how long until I feel better? Well, that depends on how much you do yourself. If you start physical therapy and stay on your home exercise program, you are off to a good start. Foam rolling is another thing you can do to help speed up recovery. As we said before, foam rolling works to get out the knots in your body. It also works to break up scar tissue which inhibits your recovery. Foam roll as recommended by your physical therapist or doctor.
5. Manual therapy at home – Unfortunately we all can’t take our physical therapists home but we can get a foam roller! For those of us who benefits from manual therapy, the foam roller is a good alternative. Talk with your physical therapist about what muscles you should be foam rolling. They will show you where exactly to roll and for how long. It is extremely important at certain points of the body NOT to roll so getting the opinion of your physical therapist is crucial.
Convinced to start foam rolling yet? Keep in mind there are different foam rollers that you can purchase; some more intense than others! If you are extremely tight and typically request lighter massage work, consider getting on of our white foam rollers available here at the Envision Sport. The white foam rollers are less firm and therefore good for a first time roller! If you like a more intense, deep massage, consider getting a black foam roller (they are typically more firm) or a foam roller with different surfaces.
Keep in mind that before you start foam rolling, you may want to consult with a physical therapist to ensure that you are rolling properly and not doing more harm than good! Happy foam rolling!