Foam Roller - Myth or Science

August 20, 2023

Your at home personal massage therapist, at a fraction of the cost!

If you have never used a foam roller before, you may feel as though you are being tortured more than it being a recovery tool.This article will help you understand how to use a foam roller. It will also provide reason as to why it helps and aids your recovery.

What does a Foam Roller help with?

Muscle knots:These are small amounts of clenched muscle fibres. Sometimes they are sensitive causing a restriction and ache. If these form within a muscle they can present themselves as a small lump in the muscle tissue, sometimes painful to press.Facial Knots:Myofascial knots, are described as hyper-irritable spots in the fascia surrounding skeletal muscle. (This is the layer of connective tissue between skin and muscle). You may also experience this at the same time as fibres binding together within the muscle (Muscle knots)Foam rolling will help correct both muscle and fascial knots within the body.

Foam Rolling Advantages

  • Boost your Exercise.

Foam rolling will help you move more naturally and get rid of the adhesions thus improving your range of movement, mobility and posture when sitting and standing on a day to day basis. As a result, your muscles will be more efficient when using them during exercise and activity.

  • Reduce soreness.

When you train, your body will produce lactic acid, which in time, will make you sore if it stays in your muscles. Foam rolling after a gruelling training session will promote blood flow to the muscles you are rolling and flush out the lactic acid helping with recovery soreness.For example, if you get hip or knee pain, you may be advised by one of our Practitioners to foam roll your quad muscles before you train. Doing this will tell the muscle to calm down and not be overloaded or over-worked during training.You may then use the over worked muscle less, and ensure the weaker muscles do more work, which will then even things out for you reducing the risk of injury.

Myth of foam rolling

A big misconception of foam rolling is that you are increasing the structural length of the muscle (as you would doing certain types of stretches).What you are actually doing is providing a stimulation and input to the muscle assisting it to relax, in a similar way to how our Practitioners provide deep tissue or Sports massages in clinic.

What is the best way to foam roll?

You can pick up a foam roller from the Clinic shop. You should always engage your core and breath normally whilst staying relaxed. Spend two to three minutes on each group of muscles, this normally would be enough.Large muscles you should use the rule of thirds. Spend 30 seconds on the top third, then the middle third and then the bottom third. It is difficult to roll the large long muscles in one smooth fluid motion.Focus on the part of the muscle with the most adhesions and pause for a second on each adhesion. If you have any oil or lotion, you can glide over the muscle and feel the bumps, these are the adhesions you want to be rolling out. If you pause on these, it is similar to what one of our Practitioners would do during a sports massage or deep tissue massage.Normally foam rolling twice a week would be a great start to a maintenance and injury prevention, but if you are a runner or cyclist that is doing a lot of high intensity training sessions, you may wish to use it as a warm up tool on the quads to ensure they do not become overloaded.

Does it or should it hurt?

Many people believe that a deep tissue massage, sports massage or foam rolling should be painful. It may hurt in a good way, but never be painful as in, ‘I cannot wait for this to stop,’ type of pain. If this is the case, stop, readjust and find a better position that is intense but not sharp pain.

What not to do with a foam roller

Avoid foam rolling on the bones, joints, neck and lower back between hips and rib cage. You have many organs either side of the spine you you need to avoid injuring or damaging themWhen injured, do not just use a foam roller to try and fix this, please seek advice from a physio or sports therapist qualified to assess and treat injuries. They will talk you through everything and may advise foam rolling as part of your home exercise plan.

3 exercises with a foam roller to get you started

Have you got your roller? Are you ready to give it a try?


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Foam Roller quads with a fully engaged core

A great movement with a foam roller for easing tension in the quads post-workout, and even pre-work out to ensure the quads are not overloaded.[/caption]While you sit at a desk all day every day for work, your quad muscles are not being extended to full length and become short and tired. Foam roling will help release any adhesions. The same as if you do any high intensity training session.How to complete: Lay on your front (prone) in a plank position with the foam roller placed at the very top of your quads against the hips. Moving the arms (walking movement) roll the quads using the rule of thirds and hold on the sore points (adhesions). Stop when you are approximately 1 inch from the knee.

Side quads

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Foam Roller Side front quad

Foam Rolling the front side of the quads help ease tention into the hip. Great if a lorry or taxi driver.[/caption]Historically, many people believe rolling the ITB is great. This is over rated, painful and not very effective. It takes approximately 2 tons of pressure to snap an ITB. As a result, you would not find enough pressure in the foam roller to cause any change in the structure.Rolling the front side of the thigh, which can get knots if train a lot, can help relieve pressure on the ITB.How to complete: Start in a forearm side plank, with the foam roller at the top of your thigh. (You’ll know you’re accidentally on your IT band if it hurts a lot.) Roll out in thirds, being sure to stop one inch above your knee.

Shoulders and spine

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Foam Roller for Back and Shoulders

Foam Rollling the back and shoulders is perfect for desk based workers.[/caption]Using the foam roller to decompress the spine if a great technique.How to complete: Place the foam roller along the line of your spine. Keeping your knees bent and feet on the floor. Spread your arms out wide with your palms facing upwards to the ceiling. Move your arms like you are creating a snow angel. Find a spot where your arms feel like they wish to drop and relax in that position. Feel the stretch on the shoulders and top of chest and breath gently.

What Next?

First of all, these are general guidelines, therfore, we can assist you in clinic with injuries or education. We could maybe show you more advance techniques for the foam roller.
Secondly, remember, keep pain free and if any doubt, give us a shout via the Contact Us page.

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