What Is a Foam Roller, How Do I Use It, and Why Does It Hurt

What Is A Foam Roller?

A foam roller is a type of massager. Massagers are used to release tension or stretch muscles. They are usually made out of hard plastic with small wheels and a handle attached to them. There are many types of foam rollers available on the market today, but they all have one thing in common: they’re designed to provide pressure on your body parts that need it most.

Foam rollers are used to relieve pain caused by injuries such as muscle strains, sprains, bruises, sprained ligaments and tendons, broken bones and other trauma. You may be wondering why you would want to use something like this when there’s a medical professional nearby.

Well, the answer is simple: because it works!

How Do I Use A Foam Roller?

There are two ways to use a foam roller. One way is simply to place it on your skin and move it around. The second method involves applying pressure using the handle. Both methods work just fine, but the first method takes longer and requires less concentration than the second method.

So which one should you choose?

Well, it really depends on what you’re looking to get out of your foam roller and how much time you have.

Why Does It Hurt?

Deep tissue massage is an effective way to relieve muscle aches and pains. By adding pressure with a foam roller, you can help break up adhesions in your muscles. These adhesions are caused by common activities such as walking, running, jumping and general movement of the body. By breaking up these adhesions, you help to restore movement to stiff muscles.

Foam rolling is a great way to relieve muscle pain and it can help improve flexibility, but only if done correctly. If you push too hard or put too much pressure on a specific area of your body, you could end up doing more harm than good.

It’s important to roll out each body part with firmness and even pressure. You should never experience pain that is sharp or stabbing in nature. If you do, stop immediately and see a medical professional.

If you’d like to try foam rolling but don’t want to buy one, you can make your own. Here’s how.

Take any length of PVC pipe and cover it with carpet, burlap or other textured material. You can even go the extra mile by wrapping with athletic tape for better grip. Not only does this option save you money, but it’s also eco-friendly since you’re reusing materials and not contributing to landfills.

Foam Roller Benefits

When used consistently, a foam roller can help improve flexibility, increase your range of motion and even decrease the risk of injuries. Foam rolling can be a good way to prepare your muscles for physical activity by warming them up and increasing their elasticity.

It can help speed up the recovery process after an injury since it decreases pain and tightness in the affected area.

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Foam rolling helps improve flexibility by causing small tears in your muscles. These tears cause tiny muscle aches and pains that prompt your body to create more tissue to repair the damage.

The next time you perform an activity that tears this tissue, your body should be able to handle it a little better.

The biggest benefit of foam rolling is that it helps treat and prevent muscle knots. If your muscles are constantly tied up in knots, not only will you experience pain and limited mobility, but you’ll also be more prone to injury.

By regularly using a foam roller, you can help break up these knots and restore movement to your muscles.

Foam rolling can also help improve your posture. Many of us, particularly those who work at a desk, have the tendency to develop poor posture.

This hunching over can put pressure on our muscles and cause them to tighten up. By regularly using a foam roller, you can break up these muscle knots and stretch out your back, releasing tension and promoting good posture.

One of the best parts about foam rolling is that it’s so customizable. You can focus on all of your problem areas and the pressure can be as light or as intense as you want.

If you’re just getting started, start with gentle pressure and increase from there. It’s a great way to soothe sore muscles after a long day or to relieve pain and tightness.

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How to Use a Foam Roller Correctly

Now that you know why and how foam rolling can benefit you, it’s time to learn how to use one correctly. Since you’re going to be spending a lot of time on the roller, it’s important that you learn how to use it safely and effectively.

Foam rolling can initially be a painful experience. But, with regular use, your muscle tissue will start to break down and rebuild themselves stronger than before.

It’s much like working out a muscle that you never use. At first it will hurt but, over time, it will get stronger and the pain will go away. In fact, it’s a good idea to foam roll before and after you work out since it can decrease your muscle pain and prevent injury.

First, find a quiet, relaxing place where you won’t be disturbed for at least a half hour. This is important because you want to make sure you’re paying close attention to your body and how it feels as you move over the roller.

If you’ve never foam rolled before, start by rolling slowly and gently over the most problematic areas.

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Beginners should start out with gentle pressure and increase from there. If you begin feeling dizzy or light-headed, take a break.

This may be a sign that you’re tensing up more than you think. The goal is to release the tension, not build it up.

It’s also important to focus on your breathing while you roll. Many people will hold their breath while they’re focusing on a particular area of their body.

To counteract this, take a deep breath in while you roll onto the roller and then exhale fully while you focus on the discomfort. You should always exhale fully when you’re deep into a stretch.

As you get more comfortable with the foam roller, experiment with different parts of your body and how they feel on it. You can do pretty much any exercise from anywhere on the roller.

The most important thing is to find the areas that are painful and focus on them.

3 Foam Roller Exercises

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Standing Quad Stretch

Begin in a standing position with one foot on the roller and bend your standing leg to bring the other foot up and rest it on top of the other leg’s knee. Slowly roll up and down the length of your quad to stretch out your thigh.

Hip Flexor Stretch

Kneel on the floor with the foam roller under your thigh, just above your knee. Place your hands on the floor in front of you.

Keeping your back straight and core engaged, slowly roll up and down the length of your thigh.

Lying Hamstring Stretch

Lie on your back with both legs resting on the foam roller. Place one leg at a time on the roller just above your knee.

Push your foot down into the roller to increase the stretch in your hamstring.

How to Use a Foam Roller for Sitting Muscles

If you spend the majority of your day sitting at a desk hunched over a computer or driving with a bad posture, then you need to take the time to roll out those leg and back muscles. Here are a few areas you should focus on.

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Sitting Hip Flexors

Sit on the floor with one leg placed on top of the foam roller just above your knee. Place your hands on the floor in front of you and use your hands and push your hips forward to increase the stretch in your hip flexors.

Sitting Lower Back

Lie on the floor with one leg placed on top of the foam roller just below your buttocks. Place your hands behind your head and slowly roll back and forth to stretch out your lower back.

Sitting Upper Back

Sit on the floor with one arm placed on top of the roller just below the shoulder. Place your other hand on your hip and use your elbow to pull your shoulder blade towards your buttocks.

Slowly roll up and down the length of your back to stretch out your upper back.

Benefits of Using the foam roller

In addition to relieving muscle aches and pains from exercise, the foam roller can also help improve your flexibility. As you get older, your muscles start to become shorter and stiffer.

Using the foam roller before and after working out can help keep your muscles limber and prepare them for activity. This is especially useful if you’re just starting out on an exercise routine.

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If you’re looking to improve your performance in the gym or on the field, foam rolling can also help prepare you for the physical activity to follow. It loosens up your muscles and decreases your chances of straining a muscle during physical activity.

When to Use the Roller

Whether you just finished a long run or just got finished with your leg day at the gym, spending some time on the foam roller can help alleviate pain and keep your muscles from getting stiff and sore.

The best way to use the foam roller is after a long day of inactivity, such as after work or after a full day of school. By rolling out your legs before bed, you can help increase blood flow and range of motion, which will make it easier to wake up in the morning.

A good rule of thumb is to spend at least 5 minutes rolling out each major muscle group. You can also do a quick roll out before you work out to loosen up your muscles and prepare them for activity.

When not to use the roller

While the foam roller is great for muscle recovery and flexibility, it can be pretty uncomfortable. It is not recommended that you use the roller directly after a workout because it could cause additional soreness.

It is also not recommended to use the roller directly before a workout, as it could cause unnecessary fatigue and possibly inhibit your performance in your next activity. Instead, try to use the roller at times when you are unable to exercise, such as in the morning before school or work or before bed.

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In addition to a foam roller, you can use a tennis ball or golf ball to massage your muscles. Both can be used to target different areas of your body and work out kinks in your muscles.

If you travel a lot or don’t have space for a foam roller at home, you can use a stick to perform self-myofascial release (a fancy term for massaging yourself). Place the stick along your muscle and then use your body weight to apply pressure.

Common Foam Roller Questions

Will I feel pain?

For the most part, you shouldn’t feel any pain while using a foam roller. You may feel slight discomfort, but this is a good thing because it means that you’re breaking up knots in your muscles. If the pain is extreme, then ease up on the pressure or switch to a different spot.

Can I use a roller with ridges?

Most standard foam rollers aren’t ridged, but you can find some that are. Rolling out your muscles with a roller with ridges can help improve blood flow and increase range of motion. Talk to your doctor or physical therapist before using one of these rollers, as those with damaged tissue or severe muscle aches and pains should not use this type of roller.

How do I store my foam roller?

If you don’t have much space, most rollers will collapse into a smaller size, making them easy to store. You can either keep it in its original packaging or find a bag or pouch that can hold the roller when it’s collapsed.

If you have plenty of room, you can leave the roller out. However, it may get in the way if you’re not using it on a daily basis.

To keep it from getting dirty or moved around, you can place it in a bag or tie it to something so that it stays in one place.

What is the best roller material?

The best material will depend on your budget and personal preference.

The cheapest rollers will typically be made of PVC or high density foam. These are light and easy to transport, but they may not last as long as the others listed below.

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Higher quality rollers are typically made out of molded EVA foam, which provides a little more rigidity than the cheaper options. These can also be a little more expensive, but they’re worth the money if you use your roller frequently.

If you’re looking for the best roller, then buy one that’s made out of molded resin. These are the most expensive, but they’re very durable and can withstand plenty of abuse.

How do I take care of my roller?

Most rollers can be wiped down with a damp cloth, but don’t use soaps or cleaning products on them. This can damage the material or remove the paint that’s on the roller.

Most rollers can also be stored in a dry place when they’re not in use. This prevents dust or other particles from getting stuck on your roller, which can be rather difficult to clean.

If you plan on storing yours in a bag or cloth, make sure its airtight to prevent moisture from gathering in it.

How do I choose the right one for me?

To choose the right roller for you, consider the size of your muscles and the amount of pain you’re experiencing. If your legs are extremely sore after a long run and you want to roll out your quads, glutes, and hamstrings, then get a roller that’s around six inches in diameter.

If your upper body is extremely sore after a day at the office, then get a small one that can target your shoulder muscles. If you have a lot of knots in your back, then get one that’s around ten inches in diameter.

Most people can benefit from owning at least two rollers: one that’s six inches in diameter and another that’s four inches wide. If you’re on a budget, buy the bigger one first and see how it goes.

If you feel like you need more pressure, then buy the smaller one later.


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There’s no shortage of foam rollers on the market, so it can be hard to know which one is right for you. The models that I’ve listed above are some of the highest quality rollers available, so you can’t go wrong with any of them.

If you’re a runner or do a lot of lateral movements and want the best roller for your money, then I recommend the TriggerPoint Grid. The larger size and firmness of this roller are perfect additions to any fitness enthusiast’s collection.

If you’re a regular person who wants a high quality roller at an affordable price, then the Pure Fitness Elite is the one for you. The six inch diameter is perfect for people who just want to massage out their legs after a long day.

Finally, if you’re an athlete that’s tired of wasting time and wants the best, then the High Density is the roller for you. The firmness and eight inch diameter allow you to target even your hardest to reach muscle knots.

Whichever one you choose, know that you made a quality purchase that will last you for years to come. Happy rolling!

Sources & references used in this article:

Why Do I Hurt?® by J Kuhland – … -is-a-foam-roller-how-do-i-use-it-and-why-does-it-hurt  …

Foam Rolling: Enhance Your Muscle Recovery and Flexibility by WDI Hurt – Sign, 2006 – apta.org

Foam Rolling by B Mardis – exercisephys.wp.drake.edu

Does foam rolling work? by J Bednarski – 5starpersonaltraining.co.uk

The Truth About Foam Rolling by NM a Post – coachpeachey.com

Why You’re Probably Doing Way Too Much Foam Rolling by M Kenway