Get Rolling!

Spending more time at home than ever, you may have more time to notice the elephant in the room –  or in this case – the foam roller in the corner.

This wonderful piece of foam can take on the role (roll) of your in house physiotherapist, massage therapist and trainer if used to its full capacity.

There is an abundance of high quality evidence from recent studies to prove foam rolling for self myofascial release (SMFR) can improve your mobility and reduce pain following bouts of exercise or increased activity or loading.

We also know they are a good tool for other exercises too, which can help to improve your strength, posture, reduce your pain and make you look and feel great.

What is Self Myofascial Release (SMFR)?

Myofascial release is a manual therapy technique that aims to increase the pliability of fascia (connective tissues in your body). It can be conducted by someone else or by yourself, making it SMFR. And what a good time to become independent.

Should I foam roll before or after I exercise?

Foam rolling is effective for improving mobility (muscle length and range of motion in joints) when done before OR after exercise, and even with no exercise at all!

It has also been shown that it won’t have any negative effects on your muscle “performance” if you do your rolling as part of a dynamic warm up before exercise – so they are safe to use for example before a fun run, a game of tennis or round of golf without impairing your performance

In terms of reducing pain following exercise or increased activity – this doesn’t only mean a big run or weights session but it could even mean doing a big shop and carrying heavy bags or walking up and down more stairs than you usually do. Studies have shown that perceived pain in a muscle or area of the body becomes less sore after foam rolling. Especially in those few days after, if anyone is familiar with that slow pain that creeps up a day or two later after exercising?

How long should I do it? Should I roll over a big area or smaller ones? Am I doing it right?

A whole body roll for 20 mins a day has been shown have the best overall outcomes, however paying attention to your tight spots and giving them 2-3 bouts of 20 seconds of rolling over a small amplitude (or even pausing on a tight spot and taking some deep breaths) can release tender spots, or trigger points effectively.

Evidence shows that foam rolling technique and prescription is best taught by skilled professional, such as a physiotherapist. Ask your physiotherapist if you would like to use your roller more, or consider trying one of our foam roller classes to learn correct techniques and gain further education.

Rolling may feel uncomfortable at times but should not cause sharp, long lasting pain.

Complement your release work by getting stronger

If your body is lacking strength to keep up with what you are demanding of it (whether it is sitting well while working on the computer or increasing your laps around the block) this may contribute to pain. So consider your roller to spice up your home exercise routine for strength and balance.

Let’s roll…

Here are a few examples of how to use your roller to improve posture, strength and balance. If in doubt, contact one of us for a physio appointment, 1:1 or join the foam roller class on Thursday at 7:30pm bookings via the Core Live app or email

Lengthways roller

Lay on your roller lengthways with head/ tailbone supported and neutral spine. Align the feet hip width apart, allow the chest to open. Experiment with closing the eyes down, various arm or leg movements to engage your core, gain a sense of stability and mobility in your chest or hips.

Thoracic Extension

Using your roller cross ways behind the shoulder blades, keeping your tailbone grounded and head supported by your hands, extend your upper back over the roller. Using breath to assist movement.

Shoulder shrugs and swan

On your tummy on a mat or carpet, have your arms outstretched with forearms rested on your roller. Keeping your gaze down, draw your shoulder blades back down towards your back pockets and create space between ears and shoulders. This shrug may be enough for you, but you may also wish to slightly lift the chest to strengthen the back a little more.

Iliotibial band/ Tensor fasciae Latae/ Quadriceps release

Engage your core as you allow your ITB/ TFL or quads to relax onto the roller. As discussed in the content above, choose small amplitudes in the needed areas for approximately 20 seconds. (Pictures in order of ITB/ TFL and quads).

Knee pull

One of the more advanced core exercises, have the front of your ankle crease over the roller and either on elbows or hands push out to a plank position. Breath in to prepare and with each breath out, draw your knees towards your belly. Maintain neutral spine throughout the exercise. Repeat fast or slow for 5 – 30 repetitions.

Written by Lauren Charlton


Cheatham, S, Kobler, M, Cain, M and Lee, M, 2015, The effects of self- myofascial release using a foam roller massager on joint range of motion, muscle recovery and performance: A systematic review, International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy, vol 10, no. 6, pp 827 – 838.

You must be logged in to post a comment.