Foam Rolling, Give It A Chance!
In this synopsis I will be assessing the proposed mechanisms of self-myofascial release (SMR) and whether there is significant evidence to support the claims behind this technique. The published journal review that I will be using as a primary source of information was performed thoroughly and systematically. The results are both promising, as well as non-conclusive at times. In this review, researchers took a close look at nine different randomized controlled trials (RCT) where the focus of study was related to SMR. The authors noted that due to the variation in outcome measures between the nine RCT’s, it was difficult to generalize the results into one general statement regarding the benefits of SMR. However, they were still able to process all the information from each study and compare the similarities as well as the differences.
One of the important statements made towards the beginning of this review was that a majority of current literature about SMR, as well as other forms of myofascial release, is based off of the proposed effects of massage rather than actual SMR due to the similarities between the two. This review was done in order to provide information about SMR as a single entity. There have been claims that SMR involving the use of foam rollers can limit muscle tightness, increase blood flow to tissues, and help prevent injuries related to exercise. The nine studies measured these outcomes as well as a few others mentioned briefly towards the end of the review.
Six of the nine studies investigated the use of foam rollers while the other three utilized a roller massage. The outcome measures were range of motion (ROM), muscle contractibility, fatigue, soreness, balance, and a few performance measures. Despite the heterogeneity between the nine articles and their outcome measures, the authors were able to draw several conclusions based on their research. Firstly, ROM in five of the nine studies was shown to improve after receiving either form of SMR. Two of the nine studies showed that SMR led to an increase in vertical jump performance while an additional four studies showed a decrease in muscle soreness and fatigue. It is important to note that the main factor that played a role in each one of these outcome measures was the duration of treatment. Whether muscle soreness, performance, or ROM was the outcome measure, each one showed optimum improvements with different treatment times.
Overall there appears to be better evidence to support certain claims as compared to others. The effects of SMR on reducing delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) looks to be the strongest. This is good news as it allows athletes to train more frequently as well as potentially enhancing performance. There is also good evidence to suggest that SMR can increase ROM. While the evidence supporting ROM improvement is moderate compared to that of reducing DOMS, this is good news for athletes as it may lead to a decreased risk of injury associated with less fascial adhesions. Finally, when it comes to performance and how SMR can help improve athletic performance, there is still much to study. Depending on our definition of “performance” it will be interesting to see what comes out in the future pertaining to whether SMR truly does improve vertical leap and muscle contractibility as mentioned in this review. It is important to understand the differences between SMR, massage, and other modalities that aim to decrease fascial adhesions. In my opinion, they should be studied separately and individual conclusions should be made for each one regardless of how similar they may appear.
It is clear to see how foam rolling may be beneficial for several aspects of health and wellness. In general, it is a great way to improve joint mobility, decrease muscle tightness, and so much more.