Thursday, April 17, 2014
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Foam rolling: Why is it so important?

Foam rolling is the latest and greatest in the fitness scene. But what is it and is it really all it is cracked up to be?

Foam rolling: Why is it so important?

Foam rolling is the latest and greatest in the fitness scene. But what is it and is it really all it is cracked up to be? The answer is yes. Foam rolling is something that everyone needs to be doing, no matter what your sport is. And it is not just for athletes. 5-10 minutes every day will help you prevent injury and keep your muscles healthy and happy.

Foam rolling involves a foam roller which is usually a long round piece of foam, although it can be made out of different materials. Using the foam roller is a form of self massage. It is used to lengthen the muscles, help break up adhesions, help break up scar tissue and make sure that the muscles are functioning in the most appropriate manner. Foam rolling also helps increase blood flow which will help flush the muscles of any toxins that may have built up in them.

Every time we work out our muscles suffer micro traumas. You do not feel these traumas but they occur as you forcefully lengthen and shorten your muscles. Over time these micro traumas can form adhesions. It should be noted that our body undergoes thousands of micro traumas in a day and they don’t have to occur from just working out. They can occur from raking leaves, sitting at a desk for too long in the wrong postures, lifting a child; anything can cause a micro trauma to the muscle. Over time, enough of the same micro trauma cases the muscle to build up knots. These knots put the muscles into a shorter position. With this shorter position there is pain.

When there is pain the body does everything it can to stop the pain. The body will begin to use other muscles differently in order to make the pain stop. An example of this is reoccurring back pain. So often I hear from my patients that their back pain started as a nagging pain and it would go away after a few hours or a couple of days. Then it would come back months or weeks later. Then the frequency of the episodes increase and all of a sudden the episodes are now occurring daily or not going away at all. This is an example of knots that have gotten unbearable. With foam rolling on a daily basis it would take care of the micro traumas and the compensation patterns and would prevent the reoccurring back pain.

Another example of this is knee pain. Most people with knee pain do not remember what they did to cause the knee pain and there was no traumatic injury. The pain they are feeling started by a number of micro traumas that never healed. Then other muscles began compensating or working differently in order to be able to make the muscle that is hurting work less. These muscles tug at the knee as they become longer and shorter depending on the compensation patterns. All of a sudden there is knee pain that is nagging and does not go away and in fact is getting worse.

Foam rolling will help ‘smooth’ out the muscles. It will allow the knots that are forming to be broken up. Rolling over the foam using your body weight will put pressure on the knots and force them to disband. Therefore the muscles are allowed to function properly at the proper length. This also means that foam rolling needs to be done every day whether you are in pain or not. It can be used as a prevention tool but also a corrective tool too.

A foam rolling routine like the one seen in the video footage should be done every day for 10 minutes. Many times people state that foam rolling hurts them and they choose not to do it. If you are foam rolling and it hurts then that means that it is even more imperative that you do because there are problems already occurring. Even though it may not be felt as pain in a joint yet, it is on its way and making sure that you foam roll is imperative. If you are not able to tolerate foam rolling 10 minutes at a time then do a couple minutes a day throughout the day. It does not matter when you foam roll, it only matters that you do it.

There is no substitute for foam rolling. Many people purchase ‘the stick’ thinking that it accomplishes the same thing, when in fact it does not. The stick does not apply body weight to a muscle which is the amount of pressure needed to break up knots that have been forming. Using the stick is a good warm up for the foam roller but it does not replace it.

Getting into a foam rolling routine can help your overall health whether you are an athlete, a couch potato, a mom, a manual laborer, anyone really. Making a commitment to foam roll 10 minutes every day can save you months in therapy, being taken out of your sport and in some cases can help avoid surgery.


Read more Sports Doc for Sports Medicine and Fitness.

Heather Moore, PT, DPT, CKTP Owner of Total Performance Physical Therapy, North Wales, Pa.
About this blog

Whether you are a weekend warrior, an aging baby boomer, a student athlete or just someone who wants to stay active, this blog is for you. Read about our growing list of expert contributors here.

Robert Senior Sports Doc blog Editor
Alfred Atanda, Jr., M.D. Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children.
Robert Cabry, M.D. Drexel Sports Medicine, Team physician - U.S. Figure Skating, Assoc. Team Physician - Drexel
Brian Cammarota, MEd, ATC, CSCS, CES Symetrix Sports Performance, athletic trainer at OAA Orthopaedics
Desirea D. Caucci, PT, DPT, OCS Co-owner of Conshohocken Physical Therapy, Board Certified Orthopedic Clinical Specialist
Michael G. Ciccotti, M.D. Rothman Institute, Head Team Physician for the Phillies & St. Joe's
Julie Coté, PT, MPT, OCS, COMT Magee Rehabilitation Hospital
Peter F. DeLuca, M.D. Rothman Institute, Head Team Physician - Eagles, Head Orthopedic Surgeon - Flyers
Joel H. Fish, Ph.D. Director - The Center For Sport Psychology, Sports Psychology Consultant - 76ers & Flyers
R. Robert Franks, D.O. Rothman Institute, Team Physician - USA Wrestling, Consultant - Philadelphia Phillies
Ashley B. Greenblatt, ACE-CPT Certified Personal Trainer at The Sporting Club at The Bellevue
Cassie Haynes, JD, MPH Co-Founder, Trap Door Athletics, CrossFit LI Certified
Eugene Hong, MD, CAQSM, FAAFP Team Physician - Drexel, Philadelphia University, Saint Joe’s, & U.S. National Women’s Lacrosse
Jim McCrossin, ATC Flyers and Phantoms
Kevin Miller Fitness Coach, Philadelphia Union
Heather Moore, PT, DPT, CKTP Owner of Total Performance Physical Therapy, North Wales, Pa.
David Rubenstein, M.D. Main Line Health Lankenau Medical Center, Team Orthopedist - Philadelphia 76ers
Justin Shaginaw, MPT, ATC Aria 3B Orthopaedic Institute, Athletic Trainer - US Soccer Federation
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