Help! How Do I Use This Foam Roller?

Foam Rolling. What is it? How do I do it, and if I’m going to do it how often should I do it? Should I foam roll or is that just for athletes?


Often these are questions I get asked from patients when they come to see me for physical therapy and the discussion turns to foam rolling. In this month’s blog I’ll be answering these questions and providing a video with some common foam rolling applications.


First off what is foam rolling. A roam roller is the utilization of a 12” to 42” piece of foam that has been molded into a cylinder. Foam rollers come in varies levels of stiffness and design for individual application depending on your needs and wants. This cylinder of foam is then used as a self soft tissue mobilization tool.

Many individuals will utilize foam rolling prior to or after exercise. In physical therapy we prescribe foam as a way to recreate your hands on care you receive in the clinic. The three main benefits of foam rolling are:


1. Reduce Muscle Tightness and soreness: Foam rolling helps to relieve tight and “achy” muscles similar to massage therapy allowing for decreased pain and soreness in your body.

2. Improves Range of Motion: Similar to number one, when tightness in muscles and fascial tissue are released muscle tissue length will improve. This improved length will allow for better mobility and function. Additionally, foam rollers can be utilized to provide self-mobilizations to the spine by either lying on it or rolling on the foam roller.

3. Improves blood circulation: This is probably the lease known benefit of foam rolling. Muscle are little pumps the bring blood in and out. When muscles are tight and restricted blood is not flowing normally into the area and tissue. By utilizing a foam roller to loosen up tight and restricted muscles, blood flow will increase to the area and tissue that can lead to a reduction in symptoms of cramping, tingling, and numbness if present, as well as improving overall function of the tissue.


New patients often tell me that they thought foam rolling was just for athletes. As a movement specialist and a physical therapist this is far from true. A foam roller or any soft tissue mobilization device is applicable to any individual of any level, and can be an extension of your therapist’s hands. A foam roller is a way to recreate the hands of care you receive from your physical therapist during your treatment session, allowing you to heal faster and improve your quality of life quicker.


The most common question I get about foam rolling is how often do I do it? The answer I provide is a little blurry, as “It Depends”. What I mean by this answer is that it depends on how active or restricted you are. A good analogy was taught to me a few years back that I use when answering the question about foam roll application. The analogy goes: Think about your body like a car, the more you drive your car, the more you need to change your oil. In this analogy your body is the car so the more active you are walking, running, recreating the more you apply your foam roller to your body. When it comes to individuals who are really restricted, I prescribe foam rolling a few times a week and as the body loosens up you reduce to 1-2 times a week.


Last, I have included a video below of some common foam rolling applications. There are numerous other applications, but in the video I cover foam rolling for your legs and lower body.



I hope you found this blog article educational and are more informed about foam roll application. If you have any questions about foam rolling don’t hesitate to reach out to me via email at kelly@rehabunited.com

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