Roll Away Injuries: The Benefits of Foam Rolling

April 1, 2013

I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I have been dealing with a knee/leg injury. It was caused initially from running but even though I have not run for the last 2 months (I am serious antsy) the pain has persisted and seems to be moving around my left leg and into my lower back. 

I won’t get into much detail but let’s just say there’s been a lot of this…

So much icing and even more stretching. Though it does not seem to hurt while I am strength training the pain in my shins and back is certainly worse afterwards. Running is still painful as ever. As frustrating as it is I have been trying to scale back on my workouts and focus more on stretching and stabilizing exercises. I’m hoping to start doing more yoga too. I’ll keep you posted on how this is going.

Over the past two months the foam roller has seriously become my best friend. At first it was a love-hate relationship since it hurt so bad but now that i’ve been rolling consistently it’s become love-love! When I first injured myself everyone from friends, trainers and physiotherapists encouraged me to use the foam roller. I didn’t completely understand its benefits so I did some research into it and thought I would share my findings. 

Foam rolling is kind of like giving yourself a deep tissue massage. Rolling helps relieve the tight knots, which build up in the fascia of the muscle tissue. These knots cannot be tackled by standard static stretching and so without foam rolling (or serious splurging on deep tissue massage) these knots remain and can cause all sorts of problems. Here are a few ways everyone can benefit from foam rolling:
Foam roll to prevent injuries. When we work our muscles through exercise or physical activity we are clearly putting all sorts of stress on them. This can lead to knots in our muscles where the fibers have started to adhere to one another. The foam roller will allow you break up these fibers and target areas with the most tension. Essentially you are breaking up the fascia (muscle knots) to prevent these tighter regions from becoming injury trigger points and also improve their movement and function.
Foam roll to improve flexibility. Rolling over muscles can help release and lengthen the tissue thus improving flexibility. This is especially true of our hip flexors. Tight hip flexors can cause a host of problems including back, hamstring, shin and even foot pain. If any of these are problems for you I would definitely suggest rolling it out! Here is a guide to foam rolling your hip flexors.
Foam roll to improve posture. Even if you aren’t an athlete you can still reap the benefits of foam rolling. Many people who have desk jobs or spend a lot of time hunched over at their computers experience all sorts of “hunchback” related pain. Foam roller to the rescue! Lie on the foam roller lengthwise to open up the invertebral spaces and increase nerve movement. This can really help relieve back and neck pain associated with poor posture.
Foam roll to help heal injuries. This is something that I can truly attest to. 

 Rolling can soothe sore muscles, increase circulation and loosen muscle spasms. It can also help release waste products and toxins that become trapped in the connective tissue as a result of exercise. 

When should you foam roll? Right after warming up but before any static stretching. It will increase circulation and improve your body’s alignment allowing all joints to move correctly. You can also use it post-workout as well to correct any tight areas that were created during the workout.

What kind of foam roller should you use? It depends. Ultimately all foam rollers work the same but the denser the roller or the deeper the ridges on the roller, the more intense the stretch will be. If you are just starting out use a more compressible roller without ridges and work your way up. Usually white rollers are the softest, blue and green are medium intensity and black are the hardest. 

Here’s the thing with foam rolling, it hurts. But there is a silver lining! Each time you roll it hurts less and less. It is definitely a habit to keep up with both because it gets easier and because there are just too many benefits not to. So next time you’re in the gym and see one of those funny-looking tubes lying around give it a try. If you need a little guidance check out this video for a full body foam rolling workout.

Is foam rolling something you consistently do? Have you ever used the foam roller to help heal an injury? 


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  • Reply
    March 20, 2014 at 11:54 pm

    Davida, it’s almost a year since you wrote this article and I hope your leg/knee is back to normal. I’ve never been injured but I use the foam roller all the time to hopefully prevent it or at least reduce the risk of injury.

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  • Reply
    Stewart @Foam Roller
    March 18, 2016 at 3:31 am

    Thank you for this in depth information. I am looking to get a good quality foam roller as I have been working out in the gym for a little over a year now and would like to start foam rolling at least a couple of times a week to keep my muscles relaxed and working properly. What type of foam roller would you advise? Smooth surface just your standard foam cylinder or one of the textured rollers with bumps and ridges?.

  • Reply
    Richard @Foot Massager
    August 19, 2016 at 10:55 am

    These are great! I actually heard that foam rollers are good for pregnant woman as well. It can be used as some kind of exercise equipment for them.

  • Reply
    Carrie Anderson
    February 16, 2017 at 11:32 am

    Yes – Thank you for posting this article. I sweat by my foam roller. A few years back I was recommended that I try one out. Boy am I glad I did. Not only do I use my foam roller everyday, its seriously helped me experience less pain, become more flexible, and oddly enough help me stay relaxed.

    If you dont own a foam roller, you need to get yourself one!

  • Reply
    Bobby Johnson
    September 22, 2017 at 8:03 am

    Hi Davida, I have suffered neck and back pain multiple times, and I discovered that most common causes of neck pain include: Too much time hunched over…for example hunched over a steering wheel or your laptop or your smartphone which is very common today; Sleeping in a position that causes strain in the neck such as sleeping on a pillow that is too firm or too high; Carrying a heavy object like a suitcase on one side of your body; Any trauma that causes a strain in the neck such as falling and landing on the top of the head. However, simple remedies at home like applying ice packs, use of epsom salt and apple cider vinegar or even a nice massage over a hot shower can help to alleviate the pain.

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    February 21, 2018 at 12:58 am

    I have had back problems since I was 16. It’s a family thing, so I was told. My lower back has been hurting off and on for 30 years now. Yesterday, I sneezed. Since then I have suffered from severe back pain.

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