Canadian and Australian researchers found large decreases in quadriceps pain 24 and 48 hours after foam rolling.
The massage-like action of foam rolling could relieve pain by increasing blood flow to the muscle, the authors speculate. They cite other evidence that massage induces biochemical effects in muscle, such as increases in circulating neutrophils and changes in cytokines.
Whatever the mechanism, they say, foam rolling offers a “recovery modality that is relatively affordable, easy to perform, and time efficient.”
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|The mechanistic mysteries of foam rolling|
As the popularity of foam rollers escalates, researchers are scrambling to document the therapy’s effects and tease out the possible underlying mechanisms, which now appear to be more complicated than the earliest investigators had hypothesized.
By Cary Groner, Lower Extremity Review October 2015
Foam rollers are beginning to seem a bit like Star Trek’s tribbles: inert and nonthreatening, but extremely successful at reproduction. In gyms and on athletic fields everywhere, people are half-lying on the colorful, worm-like cylinders and rolling slowly forward and back. Given how ubiquitous foam rollers have become, however, a surprising number of questions remain about what they do for us and how.
“In our research, we’ve found that foam rolling tends to offer similar increases in range of motion as static stretching, but without the typical impairment associated with stretching,” said David Behm PhD, a research professor in the School of Human Kinetics and Recreation at the Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN) in St. John’s, Canada. In one of those quirks of scientific curiosity, where investigators with similar interests tend to congregate at certain institutions, MUN has become a hotbed of research into foam rolling and its sister therapy, roller massage.
Some claims about foam rolling may not hold up, as it turns out, and Behm and his colleagues have published a number of studies in an attempt to winnow wheat from chaff. Other researchers are getting on board, and the recent American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) conference offered a slew of papers on the subject. For that matter, a new article from Behm’s team, accepted for publication in BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders, offers insights into the approach’s mechanism of action that may upend much of what clinicians and trainers thought they knew.
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Foam Rolling for Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness and Recovery of Dynamic Performance Measures, Pearcey GE, Bradbury-Squires DJ, Kawamoto JE, Drinkwater EJ, Behm DG, Button DC. Journal of Athletic Training. 2015 Jan;50(1):5-13. doi 10.4085/1062-6050-50.1.01. Epub 2014 Nov 21.
Proximal muscle rehabilitation is effective for patellofemoral pain: a systematic review with meta-analysis, Simon Lack, Christian Barton, Oliver Sohan, Kay Crossley, Dylan Morrissey. Br J Sports Med 2015;49:1365-1376 doi:10.1136/bjsports-2015-094723.
Foam rolling: Early study findings suggest benefits in Lower Extremity Review