Most people have seen foam rollers at sporting good stores or witnessed athletes using them during sporting events. What is foam rolling really and why is it a good preventative measure to add to your routine?

Foam Rolling is a preventative treatment that helps athletes and weekend warriors alike. Foam rolling was first introduced in the 1980’s by a physical therapist as a self massage tool. It has since taken off and widely used in athletics, rehabilitation settings and home use for everyday athletes.

The goal of foam rolling is to increase blood flow to the affected area and improve function of the fascia. The fascia is connective tissue made mostly of collagen and that surrounds muscles and muscle groups and functions as attachment sites. Fascia is very important in musculoskeletal health and can lead to more serious injuries if not treated properly. Exercise and other strenuous activities can lead to temporary inflammation in tissues. If not treated this can build fascia scar tissue leading to dysfunction that causes injury.

Foam rolling following exercise can prevent scar tissue build up and soreness. Some coaches and athletes recommend foam rolling before activity as a warm up but no research has shown a true correlation between the two. Foam rolling helps prevent delayed onset muscle (DOMS) and improves next day performance in athletes.

Foam rolling can be performed in a clinical setting, at home or in the gym. There are several techniques and ways for foam rolling to be performed depending on your goal.

Rolling technique is performed by placing the foam roller perpendicular to the muscle you’re rolling. From there you will roll along the muscle in slow even rolls to relieve adhesions and soreness. It is best to use your body weight as pressure against the foam roller. If that is too intense there are modifications where you can use the foam roller against the wall if full body weight is too intense.

Pin & Stretch technique uses your body weight on the foam roller. In this technique you will use the foam roller to find a tight spot in your muscle, i.e. hamstring., and keep that spot on the foam roller. From there you will extend your knee and create a stretch in the hamstring. (see video for reference). You can hold pressure on those sore spots for a period of time until you feel them release.

Cross friction technique utilizes the foam roller in both the perpendicular plane and horizontal plane. You will begin by rolling along the muscle body. Once you find a tender spot, leave that spot on the foam roller and rock side to side on the foam roller in the opposite direction as that of your rolling. This will target both the adhesion laterally between the roller and the tissue beneath, hopefully helping to remove the restriction.

Foam rolling is not comfortable but it will help prevent more pain further along. Get familiar with your foam roller and it will come more naturally to you as you use it. Foam rollers can be found at your local sporting goods store or online at Amazon.

If you have any pain or injury, please reach out to one of our highly trained therapists at Kauai Therapy & Wellness to assess your pain or injury & instruct you on the appropriate use of the foam roller specifically for you.