Why Your IT Band Isn’t Getting Any Longer With Foam Rolling

Apr12th 2018

Why Your IT Band Isn’t Getting Any Longer With Foam Rolling…

Foam rollers, lacrosse balls, and rolling pins… you’ve used them all, but your IT band, plantar fascia, or traps don’t seem to be getting any looser!

Self Myofascial Release (SMR) is a common treatment used by physiotherapists, chiropractors, massage therapists, and trainers that have an individual themselves perform myofascial release rather than a clinician, typically using a roller or lacrosse ball. The thought of self-massaging a muscle or area is that it causes an increase in the range of motion, breaks down “adhesions” or “knots”, and decreases pain in the area.

But does it actually lengthen soft tissue?

A 2008 study showed that it takes 400-900kg of mass to influence fascia length by JUST 1%!

If it takes that much force to barely influence fascia, your body weight pushing into a foam roller or lacrosse ball surely won’t have much of an impact, right?

Here’s where it gets a bit tricky… SMR does seem to temporarily increase flexibility and reduce muscle soreness without hindering athletic performance. It may lead to improved blood flow and nervous system response. The jury is still out on whether SMR can improve flexibility long-term.

SMR provides a neurophysiological benefit, the type of “feel good” response you get right after foam rolling or a massage. By applying pressure to a muscle or sore spot, it tells your brain to decrease muscle tone in that area, leading to short-term improvements in flexibility and muscle soreness.

I’m an SMR fan but want to point out why it really works. It has a short-term neurophysiological impact but doesn’t have the mechanical advantage of lengthening soft tissues. SMR has valuable effects on athletes and the general population, including increased flexibility and enhanced recovery. It isn’t lengthening your IT band or plantar fascia, but it is decreasing underlying muscle tone and pain!

Wondering if SMR could help some of your aches and pains? Give Peach Physiotherapy a call at 519-358-7342 to set up a 1-on-1 assessment and find out if SMR or other treatment methods are right for you!

Chaudhry H, et al. Three-dimensional mathematical model for deformation of human fasciae in manual therapy. J Am Osteopath Assoc. 2008 Aug; 108:379-90.

Beardsley C, Skarabot J. Effect of self-myofascial release: A systemic review. J Bodyw Mov Ther. 2015 Oct; 19(4):747-758.