What’s The Science Behind The Foam Roller?

A lot of people we talk to ask ‘what’s the science behind the foam roller?’.

It’s now very popular to have a foam roller. In the world of athletics and physiotherapy, they’re often the go-to tool for myofascial release or massage.

Science behind the Foam Roller
Using the roller on the side of the thigh

What’s Myofascial Release?

What is myofascial release, you ask? Simply put, you apply pressure to a muscle area that’s tight or sore. This can help alleviate pain and restore motion.

There are many people who rave about the positive effects of foam rolling. Unfortunately, there aren’t many studies out there that prove the effectiveness of the technique.

There are mixed results, as far as athletic performance and recovery are concerned.

With this being said, the market for foam rolling tools and the use of foam rolling in professional capacities is widespread.

Let’s have a look at myofascial release, foam rolling, what they are, and how they work.

A few scientific studies

Many studies out there seem to be largely based on anecdotal evidence. Rigorously-tested scientific experiments are what we now need.

Yet, some of these studies have observed remarkable performance and recovery associated with foam rolling. Some of these observations include a decrease in muscle fatigue, a decrease in soreness, and a slight increase in vertical jump.

On the other hand, one study that analysed the results of several experiments involving myofascial release found results to be inconsistent, rather than conclusive.

Many of the case studies showed marked improvements while some showed the practice to be ineffective.

Science behind the foam roller
Using the roller on tight calves

It seems as if the science behind it is still in a foundational phase. If we haven’t entirely got the science behind us, then how can we explain myofascial release?

Understanding the mechanism

As we’ve already said, the evidence behind foam rolling is largely anecdotal. This means a collection of individual experiences suggest the perceived benefits.

The foam roller helps by applying pressure to trigger points or certain ‘tight’ areas in muscles. Trigger points cause the muscle to behave differently, either tightening it too much or preventing it from working well.

If you can use the foam roller to release this fascia, it may help relieve your pain and improve your flexibility,

Anecdotally – it’s great!

We’re still waiting on the precise scientific evidence, however. The observational evidence is certainly there, and plenty of information is available if you’re a professional looking to implement foam rolling into your therapy or practice.

Even if you’re feeling tight but want to do some self-healing, myofascial release is something that you may consider trying on your own.

Unless you’re writhing in pain, you can purchase a foam roller or a similar device and, with proper technique, potentially derive some of the perceived benefits of foam rolling.

Remember to breathe deeply, keep your abdomen tight, and relax. Also, it’s never a bad idea to contact a trusted health professional if you’re unsure of what’s wrong.