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Why Foam Rolling is NOT myofascial release: Part II – suggesting alternative methodology

October 6, 2014

A while back I posted a video entitled “Why foam rolling is NOT Myofascial Release (nor is instrument assisted soft tissue techniques)” where I outlined an argument, as the title suggests, that the mechanism of both foam rolling, and instrument assisted soft tissue techniques is not myofascial “release.” The main premise of the argument being that neither can provide directional force input to the underlying tissues and thus cannot stimulate soft tissue restructuring over time. I at no time question the usefulness of the techniques; I am simply questioning their mechanism of action.

In part two of this discussion (found below) I again explain why I don’t think a logical argument can be made that foam rolling will lead to a structural change in soft tissues. I then suggest a way of modifying the application to better fit what is known about how soft tissues/connective tissue responds to loading inputs. I will note again that even with these modifications I do not believe that rolling over tissue will in and of itself lead to long term structural changes. This opinion stands for any and all forms of soft tissue ‘release’ for that matter. The fact is that no biological tissue in the body has ever been shown to permanently alter in structure following single stimuli application. Tissues require multiple inputs over time to lead to plastic changes. This is why at seminars I emphasize the need to back up any soft tissue treatment inputs with specific training stimulus to reinforce the ‘message’ to the underlying cells.

It is the word ‘release’ itself that I find problematic. I do indeed use the term (Functional Range “Release”) however I do so for the sake of simplification for patients. The word ‘release’ is simply an analogy that for them is easily understandable. However when health/fitness professionals begin to believe in the analogies that we use it creates a problem. The word ‘release’ implies that we are somehow ‘breaking’ tissue down…or causing tissue to yield under the implied load. From this analogy comes concepts of “adhesions” or “scar tissue” that practitioner believe they are ‘releasing’ or ‘breaking’ during the course of a treatment application. When one considers what is known regarding how tissues respond to loading inputs, this analogy appears as a gross oversimplification and highly illogical in my opinion.


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