You’ve seen them at the gym and touted by massage therapists, or maybe you even have one at home that you swear by. Foam rollers and roller massagers are growing in popularity as tools to relieve the symptoms of sore and over-exerted muscles. Some claim these tools can even help prevent exercise-related injuries and improve athletic performance. But are these massagers truly effective?
Dr. Thomas Best, a sports medicine specialist with the University of Miami Sports Medicine Institute and his research colleagues investigated the science and studies behind the hype.
Because many users of foam rollers and roller massagers are using them without the assistance of a massage therapist or exercise trainer, Dr. Best focused on what’s known as a self-myofascial release. This is when you use such tools to self-massage your own body before and/or after you exercise or practice sports to aid in muscle recovery or maintenance.
What the Research Says
“There appears to be some basis for the use of a foam roller or roller massager for pre-exercise, for maintenance and to aid recovery following exercise,” said Dr. Best.
Proven Benefits of Using Foam Rollers/Roller Massagers:
- Decreases delayed-onset muscle soreness, which can indirectly enhance your athletic performance by allowing you to exercise longer and harder
- Increases your range of motion
- Improves recovery from weight-resistance training and athletic pre-competition
- Ability to self-massage when it’s most effective (i.e. immediately following exercise) and as often as needed
- No known negative effect on athletic performance
Dr. Best adds that “further study is needed to define optimal parameters (timing and duration of use) to aid performance and recovery.”