Mashing muscle with foam rolling has become extremely popular in the health and wellness community. Before grabbing a foam roller or lacrosse ball, see if you have fallen for these popular misconceptions and myths:
Myth #1: Foam rolling breaks down scar tissue/adhesions
These tissues are made of collagen, which is extremely dense and strong. It take time to form AND breakdown this type of tissue. Studies have shown that rolling, stretching, massage, myofascial release, etc. does not make changes to scar tissue/adhesions.
Myth #2: Rolling increases performance
Here is some quick physiology, when muscle is traumatized, the neuromuscular junction (nerve – muscle connection) becomes dysfunctional. This makes the muscle relax, becoming unable to contract normally. This increases range of motion, decreases stability, decreases strength, increases risk of injury and negatively impacts performance.
Myth #3: Rolling increases flexibility, and that is good
This is true, and false. Foam rolling will increase short term flexibility and mobility. But, these increases are negative, not positive. Studies show populations who have poor neuromuscular function and high levels of flexibility have more frequent injuries. As above, the mechanism that increases the range of motion does so by sacrificing strength. That is NEVER good.
Myth #4: Rolling releases trigger points
The trigger point in itself is a myth. Science has repeatedly been unable to define, find and target the elusive “trigger point.” If it can’t be found, how can it be treated?
Myth #5: My PT, trainer, coach, etc. recommended foam rolling, so it must be good
Unfortunately, many individuals in the medical and sports performance communities don’t do their homework before recommending the latest gimmick. Many current fads have no scientific merit, but they look really cool on social media and marketing campaigns. Your PT or coach should be able to explain why they are recommending a specific treatment on a physiologic level, and prove that it does more that just make you “feel better.”
So what should be used instead of rolling to recovery from injury, increase range of motion, improve performance, and decrease the risk of injury? Using a program based on active/dynamic exercise that is done through a full range of motion, while under load, using the entire kinetic matrix, with transverse plane components is what we use with The One80 System to reinforce out treatment program. These are the same things we keep in mind when prescribing home exercises to patients and warm-up/cool-down programs to our athletes and teams.