Foam Rolling + Vibration is More Effective than Traditional Foam Rolling Alone to Improve Flexibility

This week we highlight the work of Danielle Enrique, who recent graduated (class of 2015) from the undergraduate athletic training program in EXSS.  This work represents a component of Danielle’s senior honors thesis.  Congratulations to Danielle on a successful senior honors thesis and many thanks for contributing to this week’s EXSS Impact post.

Ankle Dorsiflexion Range of MotionWhy did you do this study?

Restricted ankle dorsiflexion range of motion (e.g. inability to pull toes towards shin) contributes to lower extremity biomechanics that may increase the risk of non-contact lower extremity injuries. These high-risk biomechanical patterns include less knee flexion, greater medial knee displacement, and greater ground reaction forces during a jump-landing task and less knee flexion and greater medial knee displacement during a squat task. Improving ankle dorsiflexion range of motion may be an important component of corrective exercise programs that aim to modify high-risk lower extremity biomechanics and mitigate injury risk. Thus, identifying the most effective treatments for increasing dorsiflexion range of motion is important for optimizing corrective exercise programs.

Trigger PointsMyofascial trigger points are areas of hyperirritability in the muscle that may limit ankle dorsiflexion range of motion. Several therapies can effectively treat myofascial trigger points and rectify their associated range of motion deficits. In particular, foam rolling of has increase range of motion without decreasing muscle activation or strength. Vibration therapy has also been proposed to increase range of motion and improve muscle function. However, there is no research examining local vibration therapy as a treatment for myofascial trigger points that may limit ankle dorsiflexion range of motion. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to compare the effects of foam rolling with and without vibration on dorsiflexion range of motion and pain in a population with restricted dorsiflexion range of motion.

vyper_3_2_2What did you do and what did you find in this study?

We recruited 20 participants who demonstrated restricted ankle dorsiflexion range of motion in combination with the presence of myofascial trigger points in their gastrocnemius-soleus muscles. Using a crossover study design, participants were randomly allocated to groups predetermined to include 10 individuals in each. One group received foam rolling with vibration during the first testing session, while the other group received foam rolling with vibration during the second testing session. The VYPER™ (Hyperice, Irvine, CA) foam roller was used for all treatments.  During the foam rolling without vibration, the vibration feature was turned off. Following the foam rolling treatment the participants also performed a static stretch of the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles.

Foam Rolling Followed By Static Stretching

Ankle dorsiflexion range of motion was measured at three time points: 1) pre-foam rolling, 2) post-foam rolling and 3) post-static stretching. We compared changes in ankle dorsiflexion range of motion between pre-foam rolling and post-foam rolling as well as pre-foam rolling and post-static stretching.

Foam rolling with and without vibration increased ankle dorsiflexion range of motion. However, the combination of foam rolling and vibration resulted in greater gains in ankle dorsiflexion range of motion than foam rolling without vibration.

How do these findings impact the public?

Overall, foam rolling combined with vibration is a more effective treatment for increasing range of motion compared to traditional foam rolling (no vibration). Individuals with restricted ankle dorsiflexion range of motion may benefit through the combined effects of foam rolling + vibration, followed by static stretching.