Foam Rolling for Rehabilitation


The foam roller is a wonderful tool which allows me as a practitioner or you as an independent user to manipulate the body’s soft tissues which has a potential positive effect on the fascial system, the musculotendinous system, and the circulatory system.  Research on foam rolling for rehabilitation and its use in clinical rehabilitation is at present minimal (although increasing all of the time).  Clinically, I have used the foam roller in my practice extensively, and I highly recommend using one.  I use the foam roller during treatment and extensively as a home exercise tool.

Possible reasons to utilize the foam roller include:

  • A different way to perform myofascial release.
  • It can be used as a mobilization tool for soft tissues as well as boney articulations.
  • It is an excellent tool for home exercise programs.
  • It can be easily adapted for use on multiple areas of the body.
  • An effective tool which one can easily travel with.
  • If a client is adverse to close quarters or physical touch, touching the foam roller provides a safety barrier in his/her mind, but allows the physical therapist to provide the needed mobilization to aide in recovery.

How should I use the foam roller?

  • I typically recommend one to three minutes of body weight rolling (if it is tolerated) per extremity, and the same for the thoracic, low back, and buttock area.
  • A good rule of thumb is to roll out an area that is tender and sore, or recently worked, until it no longer feels tight and sore.
  • Again approximately one to three minutes per area although this may vary based on your size. Increased time will be needed the more developed your muscles are.
  • Use the foam roll on tight or restricted areas prior to performance without risk of deleterious effects unlike static stretching.
  • Use the foam roll after exercise or competition to speed up recovery times and decrease the risk of muscle soreness or restriction.
  • The foam roller can also be used as an aide to increase the intensity of a stretch during static stretching activities.

Foam rollers come in many different lengths and sizes.  Each size has a slightly different purpose and use.  For most individuals, the three foot long by six inch diameter size will be the most versatile.  You can purchase a quality foam roller for a good price online on Amazon.

For more information on the use of a foam roller, please refer to Does Foam Rolling Help or Hurt Performance?  What has been your experience with using the foam roller?  Is it worth the effort?  Please share your comments or questions!

*Individuals taking blood thinning medications or with blood clotting disorders should consult his/her physician prior to using a foam roller for mobilization.

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