‘To Foam Roll or Not to Foam Roll’? – What does the science say?

The vast majority of the sporting population and indeed ever increasing numbers of the general public already know what foam rolling is.  For those of you who don’t, it is fundamentally a form of DIY massage using a big cylindrical device or smaller ball. The idea is that you use the roller or ball to manipulate the muscle and the surrounding connective tissue to get it to loosen and soften out.

The Science of Foam rolling:

So based on a recent systematic review of the current scientific literature namely, ‘The International Journal of Sports Therapy’, November Edition, the consensus is a positive one in favour of foam rolling and its effect on increasing range of movement (ROM) at a joint and decreasing delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). DOMS is the muscle pain experienced a day or two after a heavy bout of exercise particularly if your body is not used to it. However this review article does state that foam rolling does not appear to help prepare a muscle for performance.

So what does this mean for you and how you apply foam rolling into your routine?  Basically if you were to do some foam rolling prior to a match, run or gym session where you loosen up the tissues and improve the joint ROM it would be advisable to do a dynamic warm up focusing on whole body movement patterns to fire up the muscles and cardiovascular system to ready the body for performance. ( See the link below for a dynamic warm up I prepared for my racquetball buddies). So yeah it is useful so what do you do now?

How to get increased flexibility from foam rolling:

It all sounds fairly easy but the whole process itself can serve as a workout for some or as a valuable part of a warm up for others. The idea is that one would start at the lower leg, let’s say the calf for example, and work the roller up and down massaging the muscle. Then move from the right to the left sides and then move to the shin muscle (Tibialis Anterior- often affected in Shin splints), then continuing on to the quads, hamstring, glutes, side trunk (lats),the lower and mid back and back of the shoulder.  Yes you’re getting it! You can foam roll whatever area you like once you can apply firm and steady pressure to the area. Click on this link to see our video demonstration (   )

So if you want more info or training on how to foam roll effectively then give the clinic a call on 025 35015, email info@avondhuphysio.ie, Facebook, Twitter.

We are delighted to announce our new range of sports performance kits. These kits contain all the tools you need to keep your body in great shape, manage all the niggles and tight muscles.  See the video for some of the uses of this amazing kit. We also offer group sessions on how to use this kit to its maximum effect. So if you and your team mates want to book a group session and learn all the finer details of how to look after your body, reduce injuries to help you achieve your goals then give Avondhu Physiotherapy & Sports Performance Clinic a call. We look forward to working with you and your club.

Kind regards

Patrick Hanley


Avondhu Physio & Sports Performance Clinic