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Foam Rollers – do they live up to the hype?

Foam Rollers – do they live up to the hype?

The last few years has seen the rise, and rise, of the foam roller! Used to provide a deep tissue massage after exercise or in the treatment of aches and pains, their appeal lays in the fact it is cheaper than paying for a professional massage and can be more comfortable on sore muscles – due to the fact you can self-regulate the pressure you apply? However, as with any new trend, it is important to ask the question: Are there proven benefits?

The good news is, in a recent article for the Huffington Post, Roger Kerry a respected Physiotherapist and an Associate Professor in Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation Sciences at the University of Nottingham, discussed his conclusions following an analysis of the available research.

The common assumption that the roller is working on the fascia surrounding the muscle is not based in evidential fact. Research suggests that foam rolling actually reduces arterial (blood vessel) stiffness, and influences vascular endothelial (cellular) function. In practical terms this leads to a proven:

  • Increase in joint flexibility.
  • Reduction in DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) post-exercise.

Despite the constant claims that foam rolling can prevent injury, Kerry said there are no scientific studies, as of yet, that backs this up.

To see the benefits of foam rolling on your flexibility, Prof Kerry suggests doing between three to five bouts of 20-30 seconds, up to two bouts of one minute, or one bout of two minutes of rolling per day. A ‘moderate pressure’ should be applied and it should be comfortable. There is likely to be some discomfort while rolling if your muscle is already tense, sore or aching, but as long as this diminishes soon afterwards this is neither a good or bad thing.

Technique is important for safety and optimising benefit on the chosen muscle groups, so before you introduce foam rolling into your routine it is recommended you first speak to an expert or a physiotherapist.

Lizzie Shakinovsky