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The Low Down on Foam Rollers

Written By Jill Sippos, MPT on May 29, 2018

 The Low Down on Foam Rollers- Why are they so popular?



 What is foam rolling Bozeman Montana




 A little bit of history-


Interestingly, foam rollers are not new.  They have been around since the early 1920’s; however, at that time, foam rollers were used as balancing tools.  In 1987, a physical therapist, Sean Gallagher was listed as the first to begin using foam rollers as self-massage tools.  In the last few years the use of the foam rollers has exploded and they can now be seen in most gyms, PT clinics and many homes.

What does foam rolling really do?  The point of foam rolling is to manipulate fascia. 


But what is fascia? 

Fascia is a specialized system of the body that has an appearance similar to a spider's web or a sweater. Fascia is very densely woven, covering and interpenetrating every muscle, bone, nerve, artery and vein, as well as, all of our internal organs including the heart, lungs, brain and spinal cord. The most interesting aspect of the fascial system is that it is not just a system of separate coverings. It is actually one continuous structure that exists from head to toe without interruption. In this way you can begin to see that each part of the entire body is connected to every other part by the fascia, like the yarn in a sweater.

Okay so enough with the technical talk.  Why do we want to manipulate our fascia?  

Without proper mobility, fibers of the fascia become cross linked and they bind to muscles and nerves, inhibiting normal motion and causing pain.

By massaging fascia, you may improve your muscles’ range of motion, increase blood circulation, break down tightness or knots in your muscles and bolster muscle tissue integrity.


How do you know what type of roller to buy?

Types of Foam Rollers

There are many types of foam rollers and it can be confusing to know what type to buy.  Foam rollers are cylindrical, but there are many shapes and sizes.  Foam rollers can also be smooth or bumpy, long or short and soft or firm.  It’s best to ask your physical therapist about which one is best for you before purchasing a foam roller.


How do I use a foam roller?


  • Gently roll your body weight back and forth across the roller while targeting the affected muscle. If you find a particularly painful area (trigger point), hold that position until the area softens.
  • Focus on areas that are tight or have reduced range of motion.
  • Roll over each area a few times until you feel it relax. Expect some discomfort. It may feel very tender or bruised at first.
  • Stay on soft tissue and avoid rolling directly over bone or joints.
  • Two to three sets of foam rolling lasting between 30 and 60 seconds per muscle group
  • Roll before exercise if you want to boost range of motion or performance.
  • Roll after a workout to prevent soreness
  • Don’t use the “no pain, no gain” mentality to rolling. Rolling at 50%, 70%, and 90% of a your pain threshold results in similar benefits


How do I know what muscles groups to foam roll?


That question is a little bit tricky.  If you are new to foam rolling it is best to be evaluated by a professional.  You can always try to get started on your own; however, without knowing why you have pain in certain muscles or joints it will be difficult to know which muscles to roll and or stretch.  Also, there are risks of causing more pain if you foam roll incorrectly. 





Posted In: Runner's Physical Therapy Physical Therapy Modalities / Tools

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