Self-myofascial release via a foam roller is a form of massage used by athletes, Physiotherapists and other movement and sports professionals. Myofascial release is a technique developed by Barnes (1997), that is used to improve range of motion and may be used as a warm-up, recovery, or maintenance strategy. A small number of recent studies suggest that foam rolling leads to short-term (2-10 minutes) increases of 5-12% in range of motion without concomitant deficits in strength (Mohr et al. 2014, Sullivan et al. 2013, MacDonald et al. 2013).
Mechanism of action
The physiological mechanism by which Self Myofascial Release enhances Range of Motion may be different than static stretching. The following are the proposed ways in which foam rolling may lead to gains in range of motion through local and central mechanism i.e. at the level of the muscle and central nervous system.
- Friction raises the temperature of the fascia which may help soft tissue extensibility
- Thixotropic property of fascia. This theory describes that when undisturbed, fascia. takes on a more solid form, which can restrict movement. If heat from rolling friction, mechanical stress, massage or pressure is applied to the fascia, it can become more pliable.
- Mechanoreceptor activation and H Reflex inhibition in the spinal cord.
- Pain inhibition through re-organisation of the sensory map in the brain