Foam Rolling for Performance Enhancement, Injury Prevention and Recovery
By Rashah Davis
As a personal trainer, I encourage all my clients to utilize a foam roller in their training, especially as part of our warm-up and also as a cool down because of the many therapeutic benefits. Chances are, you've probably seen these dense foam cylinders around your local gym and wondered what folks are doing as they lie on the floor rolling back and forth over them. I will explain some of the main reasons why I use the foam roller with my clients and perhaps it will encourage you to start doing the same.
Self- Myofacial Release and Foam Rolling
Self-Myofascial Release or SMR is a flexibility technique that concentrates on alleviating the side effects of active or latent trigger points and to influence the autonomic nervous system which regulates certain body processes, such as blood pressure and rate of breathing. There are many SMR techniques but we'll focus primarily on foam rolling.
The Cumulative Injury Cycle
Poor posture and repetitive movements can create dysfunction within the connective tissue of the human movement system (HMS). This dysfunction is treated by the body as an injury and will initiate a repair process called the cumulative injury cycle.
Basically, muscular imbalances caused by poor posture and/ or repetitive movement causes trauma to the tissue of the body which creates inflammation. Inflammation in turn leads to a protective mechnanism of the body to increase muscle tension and cause muscle spasm. The heightened activity further creates microspasms which result in adhesions "knots" or "trigger points") that form in the soft tissue. These adhesions decrease the normal elasticity of the soft tissue and literally become road- blocks that prevent the tissue from being stretched properly.
The result are chronic muscle imbalances that cause pain which can lead to injury. Foam rolling decreases the over-activity of these adhesions which lead to the cumulative injury cycle.
How Can Foam Rolling Help
Reduce/ Alleviate Trigger Point Activity: Hou and colleagues reported that ishemic compression (pressure from an object such as foam roller) at high intensity (maximal pain tolerance) for 30s or at low intensity (minimal pain threshold) for 90s significantly reduced pain and trigger point sensitivity.
Increase Range of Motion (ROM): Hou and colleagues also found that when applied in conjunction with stretching techniques, it was shown to significantly increase ROM.
Muscle Recovery After Exercise: Massage has been shown to be beneficial in treating Exercise-Induced Muscle Damage (EIMD) by increasing mitochondrial biogenesis and restoring blood flow, while decreasing muscle soreness, cellular stress, and inflammation.
By holding pressure on tender areas of the tissue, trigger point activity can be diminished. Decreasing overactivity of trigger points that are causing dysfunction, will lead to increased flexibility and circulation which will increase performance, prevent injury and improve recovery from intense workouts.
To learn more about the benefits of foam rolling and how to apply it... Contact Rashah Davis, Personal Trainer/ Owner, Inspired Mobile Fitness