Back with another blog post from Dr. Nick Hagen at IIP Lab about What Foam Rolling Actually Does For You!

The idea behind foam rolling is not to elongate a tissue but to relieve points of tension within a tissue. Often a tension point exists where there is a soft tissue adhesion to another nearby structure preventing excursion (movement) of the tissue. Using a foam roll helps to release the adhesion between these tissues and promotes their movement independent of one another. Tension can also be thought of as a trigger point or knot in the muscle tissue itself where the muscle fibers have adhesed to each other within the muscle belly. Using a foam roll can reduce these trigger points and reduce adhesions between fibers. Lastly, a point of tension can be developed from a chronic holding pattern by the body to protect the tissue from movement. Using the foam roll as a small pain stimulus can calm down the rev-ed up nervous system and return the muscle tissue to it’s resting state (i.e. recovery tool). Typically for foam rolling to be effective it needs to be executed for 2-3 minute intervals for each section or muscle.

There is such a thing as too much foam rolling or tissue release. Excessive rolling or release can cause bruising and may leading to a significant change in tissue quality. If tenderness or discomfort increases in the area you are rolling it is time to cut back. While rolling out can be uncomfortable it should never be excessively painful.

Pick an area that is chronically “tight”, for this example we’ll use the back of the leg. First, lie on your back and lift your leg, with your knee fully straightened, as high as it can go. Then spend 5-10 minutes rolling out different areas of your calf, hamstring, and glutes. Then retest the same straight leg raise. Can you go further? Do you feel less restriction? It may take several bouts of rolling over a few days to see improvement but your mobility should slowly improve. You may need help finding specific areas to roll but that is where MAVA or your Physical Therapist comes in.

Foam rolling is a valuable tool but not the end all be all. Once you remove tissue mobility it is important to identify the underlying cause of tissue tension in order to prevent it from returning.