Rehabilitation therapy plays a vital role in injury recovery, mobility improvement and pain relief. As a physiotherapist, it is important to have a variety of tools and techniques to offer personalised and effective treatments. In this article, we will explain the reasons why you should consider including the foam roller in your rehabilitation therapies.
Myofascial tissue is a crucial component that lines our muscles, tendons and organs, providing a connection to our bones. It is interconnected throughout the body, forming a single system. If fascia becomes sticky and has little mobility and stretch, it can lead to pain. Our body is made up of a network of highly flexible fibres, linked together. This concept is known as tensegrity, which implies a system in a state of stable self-balance, with a combination of compressed components on the inside and tight components on the outside (Mégret, 2004) .
For fascia to remain functional and healthy, it is important to consider other key elements such as water and hyaluronic acid. Elastic connective tissue contains approximately 70% water, and hyaluronic acid acts as a lubricant in our connective tissue. These molecules can form branches with each other, transforming the cells into a kind of sponge that attracts water particles. Therefore, if there is a decrease in hyaluronic acid levels, our tissue loses mobility.
Through deep massage, myofascial release (using the foam roller) and movement, it is possible to reorganise the collagen fibres. In addition, fibroblasts start to produce hyaluronic acid again, water is replaced by a new reservoir and the fascia can glide properly. Oxman, D., & Salgado, M. (2020). Myofascial release: a systematic review of the effects produced by the application of this technique (Undergraduate thesis). Universidad de las Américas, Quito. https://dspace.udla.edu.ec/handle/33000/12897
Now let’s explore the benefits this tool can bring to your patients and how it can complement your therapeutic approach.
Improved mobility and flexibility: The foam roller is an excellent tool to improve your patients’ mobility and flexibility. Its firm but cushioned surface allows for self-massage and myofascial release exercises. By using the foam roller, it is possible to release tension points and adhesions in the muscle tissues, which facilitates recovery and increases range of motion in the affected joints and muscles.
Pain relief and reduction of inflammation: The foam roller can be especially beneficial in reducing pain and inflammation in patients. By applying controlled pressure to muscles and tissues, blood flow is stimulated, which promotes the release of toxins and reduces inflammation. In addition, myofascial release with the foam roller can decrease tenderness and pain in specific areas of the body, providing relief for rehabilitation patients.
Improved balance and stability: The use of the foam roller in rehabilitation therapy can also contribute to improved balance and stability for patients. By performing exercises on the roller, neuromuscular control is challenged and stabilising muscles are activated. This is especially useful in cases of ankle, knee or spinal injuries, where regaining balance and stability is essential to prevent further injury.
Easy implementation and versatility: The foam roller is an easy tool to incorporate into your rehabilitation therapies. It can be used in a wide variety of exercises and techniques, adapting to the specific needs of each patient. In addition, it is a versatile tool that can be used both in the clinic and at home, allowing patients to continue their treatment and self-care exercises outside of therapy sessions.
The foam roller is a valuable tool to complement your rehabilitation therapies as a physiotherapy professional. Its ability to improve mobility, relieve pain, reduce inflammation, improve balance and stability make it a versatile and effective resource.
Here are some examples of foam roller exercises that you can incorporate into your rehabilitation therapies:
a) Back myofascial release: Place the foam roller under your back, resting your weight on it. Slowly roll up and down from your lower back to your upper back. You can stop at areas of tension to apply gentle pressure and release trigger points.
b) Abdominal muscle strengthening: Sit on the foam roller and place your hands on the floor behind you for balance. Then lift your feet off the floor and bend your knees towards your chest, keeping your balance on the foam roller. This exercise activates the abdominal muscles and helps to improve core stability.
c) Leg muscle stretch: Lie on your back and place the foam roller under your legs. Cross one leg over the other and slowly roll up and down, from your buttocks to the back of your thighs. This helps to stretch your leg muscles and relieve tension.
d) Back muscle strengthening: Lie on your stomach with the foam roller under your legs, just above your knees. Lift your torso off the floor, leaning on your forearms, and roll back and forth with your thighs on the foam roller. This exercise strengthens the back muscles and improves stability.
e) Calf muscle massage: Sit on the floor and place the foam roller under your calves. Place your hands on the floor behind you for balance and roll back and forth from your ankles to below your knees. This exercise helps to release tension in the calf muscles.
Remember that it is important to tailor foam roller exercises to the individual needs and abilities of your patients. Also, be sure to provide clear instructions on proper technique and supervise their execution to avoid injury.These are just a few examples of foam roller exercises that you can use in your rehabilitation therapies. Explore different positions and techniques to find the most appropriate ones for each patient and their specific treatment goals.Consider including the foam roller in your therapy sessions and give your patients an additional tool to speed up their recovery and promote a healthy lifestyle.Remember that the use of the foam roller must be supported by your knowledge and experience as a physiotherapy professional! Always assess each patient’s individual needs and conditions before using any technique or tool in rehabilitation therapy.