The Many Benefits of Foam Rolling

Foam rolling is a self-applied massage and myofascial release technique. It stretches and manipulates the muscles and the fascia, the layer of tissue that surrounds the muscles. Additionally, it can improve circulation to the tissues, loosen and relax sore muscles, and release tight, stiff fascia.

What is a Foam Roller?

A foam roller is a long cylinder of stiff foam. It has a little give to pressure, but not much. If the foam is too soft, it can’t effectively apply pressure to the muscles and fascia. However, a roller that had no give to pressure, such as one made out of wood, might cause bruising and other injuries. There are foam rollers available for sale that are extra firm and/or come covered with bumps and grooves; these are specialty items intended to release stubborn trigger points. Consult your physical therapist before using one of these extra firm foam rollers.

What are the Benefits?

Foam rolling has many benefits. It loosens and relaxes tight muscles, fascia, and tendons, improving mobility; relieves soreness after a workout; and releases trigger points and contracted fascia. You can use it for:

  • Warming up before a workout
  • Cooling down after a workout
  • Relieving delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS)
  • Releasing trigger points and contracted fascia
  • Loosening tight muscles
  • Relaxing after a stressful day

Safe Foam Rolling

Foam rolling is generally safe, but it can cause injuries if done incorrectly. Before foam rolling, prepare yourself and your rolling environment. Dress properly. Put on form-fitting clothing that moves with you. Make sure your footwear is comfortable and not likely to slip. Lastly, only foam roll on a non-slip, forgiving surface, such as a yoga mat or a low-pile carpet.

While rolling, take your time. The roller should be applied slowly and gently, 30 to 60 seconds per movement. Additionally, do not do it quickly, suddenly, or aggressively. Your mental attitude should be calm and relaxed; think of foam rolling as a type of meditation.

Things You Should Avoid

Foam rolling should be applied to large muscle groups in the limbs only. Don’t try to foam roll an actual joint, like the elbow or knee, and don’t foam roll the abdomen, especially if you are pregnant or ate recently. Don’t foam roll any part of the back or neck unless an experienced physical therapist has shown you exactly what to do; you can badly damage your vertebrae and spine if you aren’t careful. In fact, it’s a good idea to ask a physical therapist to show you how to do all types of foam rolling exercises correctly. Also, don’t foam roll injured areas with visible bruising or open cuts, and as a general rule of thumb, if it hurts, stop.

How Can it Improve Your Health?

It Can Prevent Shoulder Injuries

Shoulder pain and injuries are very common among both athletes and sedentary adults. The thoracic spine is the part of the back that runs between the shoulder blades. Extension of the thoracic spine assists the shoulder muscles in lifting the arms, and if the thoracic spine is limited in its ability to extend, the shoulders are placed under an excessive load. This can cause shoulder pain and rotator cuff damage. Foam rolling exercises can help improve the extension of the thoracic spine and the mobility of the shoulder muscles, which in turn can help prevent shoulder pain and injuries.

It Can Improve Posture

After spending most of the day sitting in a chair, hunched over a computer screen, many people go home feeling stiff and sore every night. Foam rolling the major muscle groups in the legs, buttocks, and upper body can relieve these symptoms and help achieve a better posture. Maintaining good posture throughout the day, even while sitting in front of a computer, can help prevent stiffness and sore muscles.

Foam Rolling for Relaxation

The stress-relieving effects of professional massages are well-known. Performing a simple foam-rolling routine that covers most of the major muscle groups can have the same effect, but in the comfort of your own home and without the expense of a professional massage. Stress relief can improve your mental and physical health in many different ways.

In Conclusion

Foam rolling is a very effective way to perform myofascial release. It has many beneficial effects and can be used in many different ways. Why not talk to our physical therapists about developing a set of personalized foam rolling exercises to improve your physical and mental function today? Send an email to or call us at 570-208-2787 today.