This study in the Journal of Sport Rehabilitation examined the use of foam rollers, trigger point balls and massagers on the motion of ankle and hip joints. The study found these devices to be beneficial in improving the range of motion of these joints.
CONTEXT: Self-myofascial release (SMR) is an intervention popularly used by rehabilitation, fitness, and sports professionals to improve recovery and performance. In SMR, the athlete/patient himself applies pressure to the muscle and fascia, using various tools such as balls, rods, foam rolls and massagers.
OBJECTIVE: This study aimed to evaluate the acute effect of two SMR protocols (short- and long-term) of the posterior thigh and calf muscles on hip and ankle range of motion (ROM) in physically active men.
PARTICIPANTS: Fourteen adult males (24.9±3.2 years, 77.2±13.2 kg and 1.75±0.06 m) who exercise regularly (at least twice a week, 45 min per session).
INTERVENTIONS: Participants performed a short-term SMR protocol (2 x 10 repetitions, SSMR) and a long-term SMR protocol (2 x 20 repetitions, LSMR) of the posterior thigh (using a foam-roller) and calf (using a massage stick) muscles in counterbalanced order, on two different days with a 48-h interval.
MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Ankle dorsiflexion and hip flexion ROM, evaluated at five moments: pre and post SSMR, pre and post LSMR and in the control condition, which was always performed at the first visit.
RESULTS: The SMR promoted significant gains for both dorsiflexion (F1,13 = 202.67, p <0.001, ηp2 = 0.94) and hip flexion (F1,13 = 66.46, p <0.001, ηp2 = 0.84), regardless of the protocol and limb analyzed. The average increase for both limbs corresponded, approximately, to 11% for ankle dorsiflexion and to 6% for and in hip flexion.
CONCLUSIONS: The results suggest that SMR of the posterior thigh and calf muscles acutely increases the ROM of both hip flexion and ankle dorsiflexion; and that duplicating the SMR volume from 10 to 20 repetitions per set seems not to promote additional gains.