Wellness Wednesday: What is Foam Rolling and How Does It Help?


Loudoun County, Va. — Have you ever used a foam roller? You’ve probably seen people use them at the gym after they finish working out or maybe you even have one at home. As physical therapists, we are always looking at new techniques and exercises to incorporate into our sessions with patients whether you are an athlete, a weekend warrior or just trying to get over an injury, ache or pain.

So what is foam rolling?

A foam roller is a cylindrical piece of foam and they come in a variety of sizes and densities. Foam rollers are great tools to use to help loosen a tight muscle or give a very localized mobilization to a soft tissue.

The fancy term for this is ‘self myofacial release’. That’s because when you move that particular area over the foam roller, it helps break up adhesions and scar tissue and release trigger points. You’ve probably experienced a trigger point many times in your life. Trigger points are sore spots that form on muscles and tendons. They will feel like a ‘knot.’

Experts say that foam rolling can actually improve flexibility, reduce muscle soreness and improve the range of motion in your joints.

When do you do foam roll?

Foam rolling before a workout is a good way to decrease muscle density and improve your warm-up routine. Foam rolling after a workout can decrease soreness and help you get a targeted stretch. This is especially helpful on those trigger points.

How to use a foam roller:

  • Roll along the muscle area using long and slow strokes
  • Repeat this motion 10-12 times
  • Perform one time daily, as needed
  • Foam rolling requires you lay on the ground so be sure you can stand up on your own
  • Modifications can be made if you cannot get on and off the floor. You can try using a tennis ball, a pool noodle, a rolling pin, or a golf ball.
  • Foam rolling should be used in addition to static stretching, not instead of it!

How to NOT use a foam roller:

  • Do NOT roll directly over bony areas
  • Do NOT roll directly over an injury or area with inflammation
  • Do NOT roll until you cause a bruise

Note from our sponsor: If you have any recurring pain or want to know more about how physical therapy can help you get back to the activities you love, pain-free, call Loudoun Sports Therapy Center TODAY, 703-450-4300, to schedule your personalized evaluation! Let us help you Live Life Pain Free!

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Loudoun Sports Therapy Center is a premier physical therapy clinic. We offer outpatient orthopedic and sports physical therapy as well as specialty programs.

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