One claim about the benefits of foam rolling is that it initiates an increase in blood flow to the treated area. But do those claims hold water? A study published in The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research (2017; 31 [4], 893–900) aimed to find out.

Researchers recruited 21 adults aged 23–27 who were instructed to foam-roll the lateral surface of their thighs. Each subject underwent lateral-thigh arterial blood flow measures via spectral Doppler and power Doppler ultrasound on three occasions: before rolling, immediately after rolling and then again 30 minutes later.

According to the findings, claims of increased blood flow are correct. The researchers determined that arterial blood flow was significantly higher immediately after foam rolling than at baseline and was still elevated 30 minutes later.

“An increase of arterial blood flow suggests a role for the acute phase after foam rolling,” the researchers said. “Our data may contribute to the understanding of local physiological reactions of self-myofascial release. The advantages of enhanced blood flow might be important for warm up and recovery, and our data support the implementation of foam rolling in sports if tissue circulation is required.”