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Orthopedic Associates' Blog


Does Foam Rolling Actually Work?
Does Foam Rolling Actually Work?

By: Dr. Burke


Ah, the foam roller. So many gym-goers finish up their workout of choice and then head straight to the blue cylinder for another session of self-myofascial release (SMR). Many athletes swear by this tender-spot-targeting practice but there is no empirical data to date that supports the belief that foam rolling improves muscle performance, increases range of motion, or aids in recovery.

So, is foam rolling really effective, or is it more of an assumed benefit that misjudges the end results? Let’s start with the purpose: self-myofascial release. Fascia is the soft tissue that helps connect your muscles together and supports muscle movement. When you overuse a group of muscles, even during exercise, the fascia can become restricted. Fascial restriction can also be caused by trauma, namely injury, and inactivity. Inflammation can start to take place during fascial restriction, which can cause the connecting tissue to thicken and become very painful.

This is why myofascial release, such as massages and other forms of physical therapy, can be initially painful but excellent for your long-term muscle improvement and joint health. With everyone as busy as we can be, how many of us have time and the finances to experience a massage after a series of exercises? Welcome to the world of foam rolling. Your own body weight acts as the only needed pressure to release the tension contained inside your fascia. If you’ve never experienced foam rolling before, brace yourself for some potentially painful moments followed by a wonderful stretch if done correctly.

As with any stretching and post-workout stretching activity, the efficacy of foam rolling is determined by the technique and time invested. In contrast to the previous claim that foam rolling is not known to increase range of motion, a 2013 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research proved that group participants who underwent only two minutes of foam rolling experienced as much as a 10° increase in their knee range of motion (ROM). (NCBI)

We consider foam rolling as part of our orthopedic treatment regimens at Orthopedic Associates. Use caution when employing a foam roller and talk with your orthopedic specialist before beginning any form of self-myofascial release. If you’re experiencing significant tightness or pain in a particular joint or muscle group, it’s best to consult with one of our board-certified physicians to ensure you’re not at risk for greater injury. Click here to schedule your next appointment at Orthopedic Associates.





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