A hot topic in today’s rehabilitation world is “rolling.” There are lots of products out there all designed with the same goal in mind, to loosen tight muscles. But what exactly does rolling do? How does it help muscles and tissues recover?

Like massage, rolling can soothe sore muscles, increase local circulation and loosen muscle spasms and adhesions. Rolling can also help release metabolic waste products and toxins that become trapped in the connective tissue as a result of exercise. Rolling can affect the Golgi Tendon Organs (GTO), which allows the muscle to relax.Foam rolling may induce some touch-induced analgesia (the feel good/better sensation) and may induce some mild tissue injury in order to stimulate healing of that tissue. At this point, scientific evidence to back up foam rolling is scarce, but the anecdotal evidence is pretty convincing. Expansion of the theories regarding benefits of other soft tissue treatment techniques, such as those supporting Active Release Techniques (ART), massage therapy and others, support the process of foam rolling.

A common question, is when should rolling occur?There is no right answer to this question. It’s typically guided by when the athlete feels best doing it, and when they respond best to doing it. Rolling can be used as part of the athlete’s warm up to help increase local circulation to the muscle, but also to activate the nervous system. Some athletes feel more comfortable doing their rolling combined with light stretching after training, which can facilitate blood flow to the area and encourage the removal of metabolites or by-products of exercise that can be damaging to the muscle.

The best way to tell if the rolling is in the right area is if the area is a little sore when you are rolling. This doesn’t mean find the areas of searing pain, which can be a nerve or blood vessel, since those structures can be damaged or injured with too much pressure.

Rolling is best done in the direction of the muscle and the pressure should be uncomfortable, but not too painful. It is beneficial to hold the pressure lightly in one spot when a sensitive area is found. Foam Tolling should never cause bruising. You should feel better, not worse, after a foam rolling session.

  • Recently injured areas
  • Circulatory problems such as diabetes
  • Chronic pain conditions
  • Bony prominences/joints

Despite what many people think, foam rolling is not comparable with myofascial release. This is a common claim of some of the tools used for rolling, but it is not true. Myofascial release requires movement of the actual tissues in order to break down the fibrosis that has developed between the muscle layers. Any technique where the load contact glides over skin cannot achieve this.Don’t use the rolling in place of an actual certified therapist, but instead use rolling as an adjunct to help your therapist keep your body in action and injury free.

Dr. Jenn Turner.

Foam Rolling Workshop at Movéo this Saturday!

Movéo is hosting a Roll, Recover, Regenerate workshop on Saturday 20th October to teach correct foam rolling technique. Ceilidh Beck will take participants through a 90 minute session training you on rolling techniques and flexibility exercises. Click here for more information about the workshop, and Book Your Spot Today by calling us at 604.984.8731.