What is Foam Rolling?

Physical therapists use a wide variety of techniques and equipment in their efforts to provide pain relief and promote healing for their patients. One such technique, foam rolling, is often used to help reduce muscle soreness and pain. A foam roller can also help improve flexibility, which in turn can help increase the range of motion. Foam rollers can be used as a form of therapy/sports equipment in exercises designed to improve balance and posture, and they can also provide the physical support needed to perform certain other exercises.

What Is a Foam Roller?

A foam roller is a large, long tube, somewhat similar in shape to a swimming pool noodle. It is made of either foam or a blend of plastic and foam. It comes in a variety of different sizes and lengths, as well as different surface textures. As mentioned, foam rollers can be used as a piece of exercise equipment, and they can also be used as a therapy tool in order to help reduce muscle tightness and soreness, along with other muscle issues.

Foam Rolling for Myofascial Release

When a person becomes injured, the muscles surrounding the injured area often become tight and/or develop into painful knots or spasms. Rolling muscles on a foam roller applies pressure to these muscles, which in turn encourages them to loosen and relax. In addition, applying pressure to key areas with a foam roller can help improve lymphatic drainage. Improving lymphatic drainage near injured muscles speeds healing since it increases the flow of toxins and other cellular debris away from the site of injury.

Posture Reeducation

Healthy, strong muscles play a notable role in maintaining good posture. For patients with posture issues, a therapist may employ the use of a foam roller to help (re)train their muscles to assist in supporting good posture. Foam rollers are a great tool for posture exercises because they are versatile enough for use against a wall or on the floor.

Foam Rolling Before and After Exercise

Most physical therapy patients eventually begin to perform specific exercises designed to help regain their former level of ability. During this process, however, muscles and other tissues are still in the recovery phase and are more susceptible to reinjury. In this phase, a physical therapist may have their patient use a foam roller to perform certain warm-up and/or cool-down stretches or exercises prior to or after their exercise session. This is so that the patient’s injured tissues can both fully prepare to engage in more strenuous exercise, as well as gradually recover during a post-exercise cooling down period.

Foam Roller Uses

Since foam rollers are available in a variety of sizes and lengths, it makes them versatile enough to be used for a number of stretches and exercises. Foam rollers can be helpful in rehabilitating injuries in a variety of areas including the thighs, calves, and feet, the upper and lower back, and the arms as well.

The Role of Physical Therapy

When recovering from an injury, it’s important to receive specialized care that will support the healing process while continuing to protect damaged muscles and other tissues. This is why foam rolling for recovery should be done under the supervision of a professional.

A physical therapist will be able to provide an accurate assessment of a patient’s injury to determine if foam rolling could even be a helpful tool in their recovery process. They will also be able to select the correct size, length, and material a patient requires in a foam roller for it to be of help, along with the specific stretches and exercises that will improve their outcome. A trained physical therapist will also be able to provide the correct instruction on the proper use of a foam roller so as not to introduce additional injury to healing muscles and tissues.


If you or someone you know is dealing with muscle pain or aches, we can help. Please contact Cawley Physical Therapy and Rehab at 570-208-2787 and make an appointment today.