A More Effective Approach to Foam Rolling

  • Foam rolling is a popular form of self care that has helped many deal with pain and injuries. Just like anything in the pain and manual therapy world, the science is changing. What we thought we were accomplishing happens to be wrong. Today we cover a more effective approach to foam rolling that saves time and pain.

Old Approach - Impacting the Muscular System 

How foam rolling has been taught for the last 5-10 years is based on the idea that we can have an impact on lengthening the muscles themselves. The idea is that we're 'breaking' adhesions in muscles that allow that muscle to lengthen. It turns out we need 2000 lbs of pressure to cause any change in muscle length, making it impossible to accomplish with foam rolling

But foam rolling has been effective form of self care for a long time, so what exactly are we doing?

The New Approach - Impacting the Nervous System

The new approach focuses on how we can affect the nervous system to create better range of motion in our muscles and joints. By gently rolling over our muscles we're stimulating the receptors in our skin and fascia (30% more receptors in our fascia vs. our muscles) to decrease the tone of that muscle. This decrease in tone allows for greater range of motion of targeted muscles and joints and great thing to add to any warm up routine.

How to Foam Roll More Effectively

With the idea that we're having an greater effect on the nervous system than we are on the muscles we can now foam roll more effectively.

Time - We no longer need to spend 1-2 minutes on each muscles group to 'break the adhesion'. We can lightly roll over the muscle group for 15-30 seconds and have the same effect.

Depth - We also have no need to really 'dig in'  to the muscles - which is often painful and uncomfortable. Lightly covering the muscles with our roller or tennis ball is enough to stimulate the nervous system to decrease the tone of our muscles.