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Does Foam Rolling Actually Do Anything?

I believe in evidence-based practice when it comes to rehab, physical therapy, and movement. There's plenty of room for magic, but I find magic works best when it's stacked on top of a nice strong foundations.


Anyone who knows me, or works with me, knows how much I love my little massage peanut. So much so that I put it in a professional photo for the business at one point. #noshame.



But let’s talk about “foam rolling,” or “self trigger point release.” 


A study in January came out “debunking” that stretching and foam rolling aren’t superior activities to warming up (PMID 38244921), except this meta analyses didn’t discern between dynamic or passive range of motion, and MOST of the studies didn’t even directly compare foam rolling or stretching to other types of warm ups. IE, the study’s way more hyped up than it positions itself to be. 


SECONDLY, ONTO the main course. Yes, the data about foam rolling impacting flexibility is mixed. It works for some people, not for others in terms of changing range of motion, depending on the body part studied, and how it's done.


But you want to know what is consistent? 


Foam rolling, and self trigger point release reduces pain across the board. And as someone who works in rehab, that’s HUGE. 


It also consistently helps reduce DOMS, again, improving quality of life. 


Helping folks reduce pain improves quality of life, confidence; it’s often, better. So, use it, but don’t expect it to unlock the holy grail of your split or your mobility. It’s a tool in your training program, it’s not THE program. 


Now moving on, there is data that does show a specific type of foam rolling, standardized, does increase range of motion, for a limited window of time.


Foam Rolling isn’t the end all, be all. 


It will never replace strength training, drills, rest, or a good night’s sleep. 


But, there’s good research that, specifically 90 seconds of foam rolling can increase range of motion, for 30 minutes. After which, it tends to fade. But that means you've got 30 minutes to get into that extra range of motion, load it, work, and begin to own it.


So, foam rolling isn't useless, but it does require you to be intentional, like any intervention, to get the most benefits.


Evidence Based Shenanigans

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