WHO should foam roll?

Foam rolling is not just for the elite athlete! Due to the simplicity of foam rolling,  both athletes and the general population can benefit from foam rolling in any type of fitness or rehabilitation setting. There are however some circumstances where a cautioned approach should be taken prior to foam rolling. Some examples include recent injury/surgery, diabetes, pregnancy, high blood pressure, numbness, decreased bone mass and sensitivity to pressure. There would be some situations where foam rolling would not be recommended. This includes direct pressure on varicose veins, skin rash/open wounds, acute infection, cancer, bone fracture, bleeding disorders, and certain chronic pain conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis. While the benefits often outweigh the risks, you should always listen to your body, and proceed with caution. A certain amount of discomfort is to be expected, but you shouldn’t be in agony!


WHAT is foam rolling?

Foam rolling is a form of self-massage that uses a foam roller (a cylinder tube typically made of dense foam) to roll over tight and sore muscles.  Myofascia envelopes all the muscles of the body and can get damaged or overloaded by many different things, ranging from an acute injury, to a hard workout, to even everyday life activities.  


WHERE can you foam roll?

Theoretically, like massage, foam rolling can be performed on any healthy muscle of the body. More often than not, where the rolling feels most tender is typically where you want to spend most of your time rolling, as this is an indication of tension throughout the muscle. There are some exceptions to this rule, and some places that you should avoid rolling. First, you should avoid rolling over bony landmarks and tendons as it will lead to pain for no benefit. Secondly, do not foam roll the front of the neck, back of the knee or the abdomen. Some of the most common and safe areas to try foam rolling include the quadriceps, the hamstrings, the glutes, the calves and different areas of the back. If you are questioning whether or not an area is safe to roll, consult first with a health care practitioner just to be safe. 


WHEN should you foam roll?

As mentioned earlier, foam rolling is really for anyone at any time. However, there is still much debate when it comes to exactly “when” one should foam roll. The two mainly debated times to foam roll include for warm up or for a cool down. Studies have shown that performing foam rolling as a warm up can increase flexibility through increasing intramuscular temperature and blood flow. In addition, other studies have shown that foam rolling can also enhance sprint performance, power, agility and strength if performed before an exercise or performance. 


On the contrary, there are also benefits to foam rolling as a cool down or post-workout. Several studies suggest that foam rolling as a recovery tool has a positive effect on perceived pain and recovery.  With the increased blood flow to the area during foam rolling, it accelerates the removal of biochemicals. These biochemicals tend to accumulate in myofascial trigger points and can lead to a painful sensation. Additionally, foam rolling promotes restoration of soft tissue, and improved vascular plasticity, which plays a positive role on pain and recovery. Ultimately, as there are benefits to both applications of foam rolling, it is your personal decision of when to foam roll.


WHY should you foam roll?

Foam rolling isn’t the most comfortable thing to do, so why do it? Well, there are many benefits associated with foam rolling. First, we have touched on some biomechanical benefits which include an increase in range of motion, and a decrease in passive and active stiffness. Improvements can last between 10-30 minutes without hindering performance as static stretching has been found to do prior to performance. Second, there are several proposed physiological responses, such as increases to blood flow, endorphins, parasympathetic circulation and relaxation hormones, as well as decreases in the stress hormone release. Third, there are some neurological and psychological benefits associated with foam rolling. These include decreases in perceived pain and muscle tension as well as improved perceptions of well-being and recovery. These psychological benefits are likely due to the physiological responses to foam rolling. With everything being said, the benefits of foam rolling are endless, therefore, if foam rolling is safe for you to do, then grab a foam roller and get rolling!