Should I use a foam roller

I’ve been getting more people ask if they should use a foam roller and given the growing popularity, I thought it worthwhile discussing weather you might need one or not.

First off. Foam rolling is a form of releasing muscles that people have been doing for thousands of years. It essentially works out to being quite similar to if you get a massage, osteopathic treatment or other form of muscular release.  The fancy term for it is a myofascial release.  This means you are releasing the muscles and fascia (a type of connective tissue).  You are also influencing the circulatory and nervous systems.

The technical side of things: there are 4 types of mechanoreceptors in fascia – Golgi, Pacini, Ruffini and Interstitial.  Golgi receptors typically respond most to strong stretch, pacini to rapid changes in pressures and vibration, Ruffini to sustained pressure and lateral stretch and Interstitial which are stimulated by both rapid changes to pressure and sustained pressure.  It is the stimulation of these receptors with foam rolling that will release and relax the muscle

  1. Do I need a Foam Roller

No, Definitely not.  Though a foam roller may make it easier for you to achieve your goals, the ultimate goal is pressure and movement on the muscles in a controlled and consistent way.  Some people may use golf or tennis balls to achieve the same goals.  I’ve had clients come in to see me as an osteopath in Diamond creek who haven’t wanted to buy a foam roller and instead used a wooden rolling pin from their kitchen.  One individual who was limited in movement and had a walking stick as a mobility aid used the walking stick while sitting down and watching TV.  Use your imagination (and common sense) if you want to get started but don’t want to buy a foam roller.

What i will say though, is that a medium density foam roller can be very good for certain areas of the body where you don’t want as much pressure.  The firm rollers with spikes/knobs can be much to sore for many.

2. How much pressure should i use

How much pressure do you like with a massage?  As i mentioned before foam rolling will affect the nervous system, if your body feels under attack (like the first time you roll out the outside of your leg/ITB’s) it will likely tighten up and you won’t get as much benefit.  You will also increase the chance of pulling up quite tender afterwards.

If you feel like using it on the floor with your body weight is too much pressure, try doing it against a wall, or if you have a willing helper, lie down and get them to move the foam roller over you.

3. How long should I do it for

Typically I recommend doing each region or muscle group for approximately 30-60 seconds.  However if you have a spot that is especially tight/knotted, or you are trying to achieve specific goals with that region, you can roll for about 2-3 minutes.

4. Can I use my foam roller for other things

Aside from using it to have roller fights with your friends, there are a few alternative uses for it (depending on size, density etc).

  • Lying the roller on the floor and standing on it, can be a great way to work on your proprioception and balance.  This of course won’t work for the cheaper rollers with a hollow core (trust me they break).
  • As mentioned, you can get a family member or friend to roll out your muscles for you. This is particularly helpful in hard to roll places such as your lats (latissimus dorsi is your main arm abductor, and can be rolled out on the outside/back of your rib cage).

If unsure you can talk to a trusted health professional such as an osteopath, or other professionals who have an interest in these types of things like a massage therapist (Angie at Good Health Osteopathy Diamond Creek is excellent), personal trainer or physiotherapist etc.


Good Health Osteopathy Diamond Creek
Dr. Luke Richter (Osteopath) and Angie Richter (Massage)
329-347 Diamond Creek Road, Diamond Creek 3089
Providing massage and osteopathic treatment for those in Diamond Creek, Greensborough, Eltham, Hurstbridge and surrounding suburbs.


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