Sports Injury Clinic

The Foam Roller Friend or Foe??

on July 26, 2021

The Foam Roller-Friend or Foe?


The foam roller… the greatest bit of sports equipment ever? Or a gift from the devil?


As with any ‘hot topic’, there is research and opinion that is both supportive and contrary.


At Jon W Sports Injury we believe that foam rollers are a great piece of kit when used correctly, however, it is commonly used in a way that may not give the desired outcomes.


What is a foam roller?


A foam roller is commonly cylindrical in shape, used for self-massage. It can be used to apply pressure to soft tissue to help reduce long term pain. As indicated by the name, it is predominantly made of foam, but may use other materials to provide extra density.


How should a foam roller be used?

The best use of a foam roller is to break down adhesions in muscle tissue, which light rolling of the foam roller over large areas of muscle will not achieve. While it may have some small benefits, such as warming of the tissue and increased blood supply, these benefits are minimal and unlikely to result in the desired outcome. We encourage the ‘pin and stretch’method…


The Pin and Stretch Method

The pin and stretch method requires the patient to use their body weight to apply pressure from the foam roller into the target muscle. The patient moves their body around the foam roller until they feel an area of pressure or trigger point. Once located, the roller should be held on this trigger point for 10-20 seconds – achieved by the patient remaining still for this time. This allows the muscle to stretch over the top of the trigger point to break down any adhesions that may have formed.


As an example, this is how we would remove a trigger point in the thigh muscle:


1. The patient would lie on top of the foam roller so that the roller is applying an upward pressure into the thigh muscle.

2. The patient would then move to locate the area of soreness.

3. Once located, the patient remains static on the roller for 10-20 seconds.

1. The patient can then start to flex their knee (bring their foot towards their bottom) to stretch the thigh tissue under the

pressure of the foam roller. This is repeated 5-10 times.


This method of application is more detailed and does require some anatomical knowledge. However, we feel this is the best way to utilise the foam roller.


What if I don’t have a foam roller?

This does not necessarily mean that you can’t use this method of self-massage. Whilst the foam roller has been specifically designed as a tool for self-massage of soft tissue, there are other household items that can be used as an alternative – a tennis or hockey ball work very well!


Does foam rolling hurt?

Unfortunately, the answer is…quite probably! Healthy tissue does not hurt and this tool is specifically being used to locate the sore tissue. So if you are feeling pain when foam rolling, that part of the tissue is not healthy and needs help! So while it may hurt, you at least know you are targeting the right spot and in the long term your pain will be reduced.


Can I get some help on how to foam roll?

Of course! We work with many clients on foam rolling techniques. Please feel free to contact us and arrange a suitable time to pop in and discuss.

With a little teaching and practice, foam rollers can be a vital tool and a necessity for the sports bag!