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by Alison McGinnis, PT, DPT, FAFS

Posted in Blog.

May 11th, 2020

Why We Foam Roll

Take your fitness to the next level by introducing a foam roller into your routine.  Tissues should translate (glide) relative to nearby tissues and bones.  Tissues should be elastic like a bungee cord, where they stretch and spring back to their original shape.  Inelastic tissues are like a rope, where the muscle loses its ability to lengthen and recoil with movement.  Daily inactivity, overtraining, and lack of hydration can create adhesions (“knots”) in the muscle and fascia that affect your ability to function efficiently.  Most injuries occur when tissues are stressed faster than they can respond, usually because they are less hydrated and have a slower elastic response, and this is due to stagnation of fluid in the tissues. If an injury occurs, the fascia can bind down to the surrounding tissues causing increased pressure on nerves, muscles, bones, and organs that can cause pain and dysfunction.  Releasing stagnation restores fluid flow and allows healing to occur.   

Trigger point therapy, or self-myofascial release (aka foam rolling), works to improve performance and healing by restoring muscle elasticity and allowing tissues to rebound back to their natural state by increasing blood flow, increasing oxygen usage, and decreasing tissue fiber adhesions.

Self-Myofascial Release = Process of using tools to massage targeted muscles and fascia 

Foam rolling BEFORE exercise is used to:

  • Increase tissue tolerance to movement
  • Increase blood flow
  • Restore length-tension relationships and elasticity
  • Increase the efficiency of movement
  • Increase force output of muscle contraction
  • Decrease heart rate
  • Prepares muscles to tolerate the upcoming demands of exercise

Foam rolling AFTER exercise is used to:

  • Flush tissues of toxins and by-products, and promotes blood flow
  • Re-establish length-tension relationships
  • Create pliability in muscles and relieve muscle tension
  • Speed up the recovery process and decrease DOMS
  • Restore range of motion
  • Encourage circulation in dysfunctional tissues

Keys to foam rolling:

  • Breathe – take deep slow breaths through the nose to increase oxygen uptake and improve circulation
  • The muscle group being released must stay relaxed to get the most out of rolling (don’t tense the muscles)
  • After each technique, walk around to circulate more blood to the area

Guidelines for foam rolling:

  • Mild to moderate discomfort is common when beginning foam rolling. This discomfort should decrease over time as stagnation is reduced. Regularity in rolling is key
  • Maintain an adequate amount of pressure on the muscles being rolled in order to gain the most benefits, but not so much pressure that your muscles contract to resist
  • Avoid placement of the roller on any bony structures, neck joints, inside of upper arm, and any bruised areas of the body
  • Connect breathing to each movement on the foam roller, and focus on complete inhales and exhales to maximize effects
  • Maintain good posture while rolling – ensure core and shoulders are engaged

Contraindications for foam rolling (don’t use a foam roller if you have any of these conditions):

  • Large bruises, phlebitis, severe varicose veins, open wounds, undiagnosed lumps, skin infection, or circulatory conditions 
  • Diabetes, cancer, arthritis, and other medical conditions that require a physician’s clearance
  • Pregnant women should talk to their doctor first

For videos & foam rolling tutorials, follow us @finishlinept

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