Myofascial rolling shown to increase flexibility without inhibiting performance

Myofascial rolling shown to increase flexibility without inhibiting performance

August 18, 2013 — Two recent studies out of Memorial University of Newfoundland (St. John’s, Canada) support the effectiveness of myofascial rolling. The studies1,2concluded that as little as two minutes of myofascial rolling with foam rollers and a mere five seconds of rolling with a roller massager significantly increased range of motion (ROM) without any significant detrimental effect on muscle strength.

“Decline in muscle strength has been associated with static stretching, which is often used for increasing flexibility and ROM prior to activity. This association discourages some athletes from stretching immediately before an event, which may increase their risk of injury,” stated David G. Behm, PhD, associate dean for graduate studies and research, Memorial University. “Even though myofascial rolling has become popular because of its purported benefits in recovery after exercise, there was very little research on the effectiveness of the technique. Our first study, completed late last year, demonstrated the efficacy of myofascial rolling using foam rollers, and our second study, completed just last month, demonstrated its efficacy utilizing the Thera-Band Roller Massager+.”

Although used for many years in physical therapy, foam rollers have recently surged in popularity both in therapy and fitness for myofascial rolling. The rolling pressure applied along a muscle is thought to compress the tissue and increase flexibility of the muscle and fascia, possibly “breaking up” fibrous adhesions between layers of fascia. While myofascial release is usually performed by a therapist on a patient, “self-myofascial release” is widely performed using tools such as Thera-Band foam rollers and the Roller Massager+.

The first Memorial University study, conducted by Behm, Duane C. Button, PhD; and colleagues, found a significant (10° to 20°) increase in knee range of motion after rolling the quadriceps for only two minutes. In addition, the participants did not experience a decrease in knee strength or muscle activation with the increased range of motion, often seen immediately after static stretching. This study was published in Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.

In the second study, the Memorial University research team wanted to determine if similar results were possible using the Thera-Band Roller Massager+. All study participants were measured for hamstring flexibility (sit-and-reach test), maximal strength, and muscle activation before and after the intervention. The researchers reported a significant increase in hamstring flexibility (4.3 percent) after only five seconds of rolling. After 10 seconds, there was a 6.6 percent increase in flexibility, although not statistically greater than at ten seconds. There was no advantage to performing multiple sets of rolling. As expected, there were no changes in hamstring muscle performance after the rolling intervention.

“We are very pleased that our second study further substantiated the benefits of myofascial rolling and demonstrated the effectiveness of the Thera-Band Roller Massager+, an inexpensive and readily accessible tool,” stated Button, assistant professor, Memorial University. “With just seconds of use, the Roller Massager+ provided statistically significant increases in ROM without any significant effect on muscle strength. This should prove to be beneficial as part of an immediate warm-up prior to an athletic event.”

Watch the Dr. David Behm /Roller Massager+ study video here.

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