Wellness Wednesday - Why and How Should I Foam Roll?

Our latest blog post is another golden one from our very own therapist Jill Domke, this time about foam rolling.  Foam rolling is a very effective method that you can use on your own, and she helps expalin the benefits. Check it out! - Dave 

p.s. I'm not going to sugar coat anything the more you need the foam rolling the more you'll feel it while doing so.


Foam rolling is a form of self massage or "myofascial release" , which means it helps get rid of adhesions or tight areas in muscles and connective tissue. Myofascia is the thin coating around our muscles that can contribute to muscle tightness, soreness, and dysfunction. Many patients who come to PT or  massage therapy know how this feels, and you can also do it yourself at home using a foam roller or a LaCrosse ball. Today we will cover massage using a foam roller, and all of the newly found positive effects of foam rolling. Studies in the past 2 years show the following benefits (all from articles in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research).

1. Foam rolling increases the range of motion (ROM) of a joint. When the quads were foam rolled for 2 minutes, knee joint flexion (bending) ROM improved. 

2. Foam rolling was found to reduce artery stiffness and improved vascular function in the muscle area rolled.

3. It improves recovery after exercise, as seen in the following ways:

  •      Decreases muscle soreness

  •      Increases muscle activation, meaning that they muscles turn on quicker when you brain asks them to kick in.

4. It causes less delay in muscle activation time. Or in other words, it decreases the time it takes for a muscle to fire and contract after the brain sends the message to do so. Quicker activation time means faster reaction time and faster movement.

5. Two minutes of foam rolling enhanced flexibility as much as static stretching. Foam rolling instead of stretching before activity is preferred because it does not impair muscle strength for an hour afterward, as does stretching. However, note that stretching does NOT impair muscle strength in the long term (ie more than 1 hour). So, do not  give up stretching, but just do it after your workout or sport activity. Stretching after activity is what causes better gains in flexibility. 

Here are some tips and guidelines for foam rolling:

  • Roll not only on the painful area, but around it as well. Actually, if you find that you cannot relax while massaging a painful area, you should stop, and avoid that area.

  •  Go slow. Your muscles need the time to relax

  •  Maintain good posture. For example, do not contort your spine in attempt to reach a muscle. When you are supporting your body weight on one arm, make sure your shoulder blades are down and back and that your neck is relaxed and in a neutral position. When foam rolling your quads while facing downward, maintain somewhat of a plank position in order to not aggravate other posture muscle conditions. 

  • Spend time on each muscle you're rolling

  • Most of all, enjoy it, relax, and ask your physical therapist or performance trainer  for specific techniques for your condition and needs. 

- Jill Domke