There’s No Place like Foam

3 Reasons You Should Try Foam Rolling

rustedtinmanIf you feel like a rusty Tin Man, you don’t need a Wizard or an oil can.  Try foam rolling!

There is an increasing amount of evidence (1, 2) supporting the health benefits of a regular practice of Foam Rolling Self Massage.  Some of the health benefits include:

  • Improving flexibility,
  • Reducing muscle soreness,
  • Improving joint range of motion, and
  • Reducing stress levels

What Does Foam Rolling Actually Do?

Without getting too scientific, Foam Rolling Self Massage hydrates your fascia, which is your body-wide, 3-D, connective tissue system that wraps and connects your muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones, nerves and blood vessels.  Foam Rolling Self Massage focuses on the fascial systems in the body that can be negatively impacted by repetitive motion or stillness (such as sitting at a desk), the aging process and day-to-day living.  This is what some refer to is as having “issues in your tissues” – and it may feel like stiffness, pain or achiness – kind of like feeling like the rusty Tin Man.

Foam Rolling Self Massage, like Rolfing and traditional massage, work to resolve many of these issues by applying pressure to specific areas of the body.  In the case of foam rolling, you use a roller and your own body weight.  The ultimate goal is restore your body back to its natural state.

While there are many reasons you should incorporate Foam Rolling Self Massage into your wellness routine, here are three reasons why you should at least try it:

  1. There is no Wizard. Kidding aside, you want to feel better!  Self-massage with a foam roller will help you feel better by reducing achiness and stiffness as well as improving your flexibility and range of motion.  The better you feel, the more time you’ll have for activities like riding the Horse of a Different Color or a hot air balloon.
  2. You’re cheap. It’s an affordable alternative to massage therapy.  While there is no replacement for a good massage therapist, it can become cost-prohibitive.  Foam rolling is an affordable option, especially since you can do it at home, once you learn how to properly perform the exercises.  Learning options range from group classes offering Foam Rolling Self Massage techniques at local wellness/yoga/fitness facilities to one-on-one instruction with a professional.  Some of the group class options offer complimentary foam rollers, but always check with the facility before attending any class option, as the number of free rollers may be limited.  Prices on rollers vary from around $40 up to $100 (less than a massage).  An experienced fitness professional or facility can provide recommendations based on your goals.
  3. You’re stressed out. A recent study(3) concluded that very slow, gradual pressure from self-massage with a foam roller lowered the activities of the sympathetic nerves.  The sympathetic nervous system orchestrates what we call the “fight-or-flight” response. Just imagine the Scarecrow running from the Wicked Witch of the West!    When you’re fight-or-flight response is lowered, it gives your body’s “rest-and-restore” response a chance to activate.  It is when you are in this “rest and restore” mode that your body is most efficient to repair and heal itself. Last, when performing Foam Rolling Self Massage on yourself, you are also working on your present moment awareness which cultivates a better mind-body balance optimizing your wellbeing, vitality, and wholeness.

Conclusion

Whether you’re feeling like the rusty version of the Tin Man or just want to augment your wellness routine, give Foam Rolling Self Massage a try. There’s no place like foam!

As with any exercise program, consult with your doctor if you have any physical conditions.

References:

  1. Mohr, A.R., Long, B.C., & Goad, C.L. (2014) Effect of foam rolling and static stretching on passive hip-flexion range of motion.Journal of Sport Rehabilitation, 23(4), pp.296-299.
  2. Couture, C. , Karlik, D., Glass, Stephen. (2015). The Effect of Foam Rolling Duration on Hamstring Range of Motion.OPen Orthop J, 9: 450-455.
  3. Kanghoon Kim, MS, PT1), Sunghyun Park, BSc, PT1)*, Bong-Oh Goo, PhD, PT1), Seok-Cheol Choi, PhD2. Effect of Self-myofascial Release on Reduction of Physical Stress: A Pilot Study https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/jpts/26/11/26_jpts-2014-157/_pdf