By Caroline Burns, DPT, PT, FRCms
Foam rolling is a form of self-myofascial release (or, soft tissue massage), which has recently increased in popularity in gyms and Physical Therapy clinics around the world. For both athletes and active individuals, foam rolling is used to relieve muscle pain and tension, and enhance recovery and performance.
Early studies suggest that foam rolling can enhance joint range of motion and improve recovery from exercise by decreasing muscle soreness.
Below are some Dos and Don’ts for basic foam rolling.
As always, if you are unsure about the technique or are having pain, please consult a physical therapist who can guide you in the right treatment direction!
DO try some different rollers to decide which one is best for you. There are different densities, lengths and diameters available. For beginners you may want to try the white, less firm foam and work your way up to darker and firmer foams.
DO foam roll after an intense bout of exercise. Evidence shows that foam rolling after exercise can reduce acute muscle soreness, delayed onset muscle soreness, and reduce pain perception.
DO foam roll before exercise. Short bouts (less than 10 minutes) of foam rolling prior to physical activity has no negative effects on muscle performance and can increase range of motion before and during your activity.
DON’T foam roll directly over an injured area.
DON’T foam roll over bony areas or joints.
DO roll slowly- about one inch per second.
DON’T spend too much time on one spot. It is generally recommended to roll about 2-4 minutes in any given body part. Spending more time than this can actually irritate the area.
DON’T roll your lower back or neck. These areas of your spine are not supported by your rib cage, which can cause the muscles to contract and spasm in order to protect the spine from the pressure of the foam roller.
DO roll your middle back. The thoracic spine is an area that can be very limited in mobility and range of motion. It also connects to your neck, lower back and shoulder blade so poor mobility in this area can negatively affect the performance of joints above or below it.
DO use the foam roller for more than soft tissue release. There are many great stabilization exercises at can be performed using the foam roller.
Ask a therapist how to incorporate the foam roller into your fitness regime!