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What is Foam Rolling and How Do Physical Therapists Use It?

By Devin Wurman, DPT

What is foam rolling and how do we use it in physical therapy?  As physical therapists, we are always looking at new techniques and exercises to incorporate into our sessions with patients.  We challenge and work their bodies so they become stronger, more flexible, and more mobile.  Foam rolling is a technique many of my current and past patients have asked me about to see if it would benefit their particular condition.

So what is foam rolling?  A foam roller is a cylindrical piece of foam.  Foam rollers come in a variety of sizes and densities.  At Loudoun Sports Therapy Center, we might use this technique to help certain patients loosen a tight muscle or give a very localized mobilization to a soft tissue.  We call this ‘self myofacial release’ because by rolling that particular area over the foam roller, it helps break up adhesions and scar tissue and release trigger points.  Trigger points are sore spots that form on muscles and tendons.  They will feel like a ‘knot.’

Research suggests that foam rolling can improve flexibility, reduce muscle soreness, and improve the range of motion in joints.

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.

The ‘Do Not’s’ of foam rolling:

  • 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.
  • 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!

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!