Continuing with the theme of foam rolling, where in my previous post I looked at the effects of foam rolling on improving performance, let’s now look at the role of foam rolling on physical recovery.
Recent studies on foam rolling do show that foam rolling even as little as 10 minutes post workout, helps contribute towards a reduced perception of delayed onset of muscle soreness (DOMS) the following day. Less pain would therefore mean you can hit the gym soonerand therefore make more of those desired gains…sounds good to me!
Although foam rolling appears to help facilitate some increases in muscular recovery, I know many physical therapists who will dispute the use of foam rolling as it lacks the ability to work deep into the muscle tissue, which is generally where most physical problems lye. Being a massage therapist myself, I would have to agree with this statement but only to an extent. I still believe in the value of using foam rolling as a general maintenance tool to keep the fascia and the surface layers of the muscles happy which still offers benefits to the body in terms of general recovery.
Furthermore keeping the surface layers of the muscles loose through such self maintenance work will make it easier to access the deeper layers of the muscle tissue when need be. Therefore if you were to get a deep tissue massage in a already ‘pre-loosened’ state, the effects of the session will be more effective and therefore you will save time (and indeed money) in the long run!
It would be best therefore to undergo regular self-foam rolling and then every so often get the deeper layers of the muscles also looked at through sports and deep tissue massage therapy (I always recommend a once a month pace, although if you can afford more then the more the better!)
With respects to specific injuries, foam rolling may only offer a limited solution to the problem due to, as mentioned it generally lacks the ability to work deep into the muscle tissue. For example lower back pain is often influenced by tightness in the Piriformis muscle (located on the top of the glutes) where foam rolling this area may offer some relief from the pain symptoms. However the cause of the problem will lye in knots being present in the deeper layers of the muscle and therefore working on the surface layers alone will only offer initial relief but not complete recovery from the injury itself. You would therefore want to work on the surface layers yourself, and then get the deeper layers sorted out by an actual person (or perhaps their elbow to be more specific).
To conclude, let’s give a big yes to foam rolling for general recovery but a no for specific injuries, where to make the most out of your physical recovery routine, the best bet would be to combine frequent self maintenance / foam rolling work with external massage sessions at your own affordable pace.