The Foam Roller: To roll or not to roll

The Foam Roller: What It’s All About

If you’re like me, you’ve been noticing foam rollers everywhere. You see them at your chiropractor’s office, the gym, the park, at home and potentially in your dreams on a slow night.

Over the last few years, more and more chiropractors and health/fitness professionals have been utilizing the foam roller as part of their patient’s/client’s active flexibility and rehabilitation program.

Why use a foam roller?

The theory behind the foam roller is rather simple: it helps release built up tension in your muscles and gives you the freedom to do so at the comfort of your home without having to visit your health professional on a daily basis.

Reduce sore spots & tension, increase muscle performance

When properly used, the resulting release appears to help reduce the number of sore spots, decrease overall tension and increase muscle performance.

Though the theory appears to make sense, science has yet to extensively examine the efficacy of the roller. Only within the last two years have researchers and clinicians attempted to systematically validate the roller and its proposed mechanism of action.

Studies on the efficacy of the roller

Results from the few studies of adequate quality hint at the roller’s ability to decrease in muscle soreness after physical activity, increase in range of motion (1),(3), improved performance in certain practiced movements (2) and improved short term blood supply (4).

What does the research tell us?

So far, research and clinical experience favours the foam roller and its potential to decrease muscle soreness while increasing muscle range of motion. The only caveats here are the importance of effective rolling technique and understanding of the role of the foam roller as a tool and not a replacement for professional therapies such as Chiropractic care or massage therapy.

Therapeutic Foam Roller Techniques

1. Proper technique is important. Ask your East Vancouver Chiropractor/massage therapist to observe your form and suggest modifications. Visit our YouTube page for video lessons on how to perform common roller exercises.

2. If you have a lot of pain in an area, avoid rolling over it. Move an inch above and below and decrease tension in the muscle without further aggravating an already inflamed area. Consult your East Vancouver chiropractor or massage therapist to expedite return to activity.

3. Take your time but don’t overdo it. It should take you 30- 45 seconds to release the tension in a muscle group of interest for most beginners. Avoid repeatedly rolling over sore spots as it may aggravate your muscle.

4. Never roll over joints. Start and stop about an inch above or below a joint to safely release tension in muscles without aggravating tendon to bone attachments, ligaments or joint capsules.

So what are you waiting for? Give it a try and see what the hype is all about!

Contact our East Vancouver Health Centre

Backs in Action Wellness Centre is located just steps away from the Commercial Broadway Skytrain Station; making us easily accessible from Burnaby and Downtown Vancouver.

Call 604-876-9977 or email to book an appointment or for more information. We welcome new patients.

Don’t suffer any longer from pain – Book Now!


1). Mohr et al. “Foam rolling and static stretching on passive hip range of motion”. Journal of Sport Rehabilitation, 2014. PMID: 2445850
2). MacDonald et al “Foam rolling as a recovery tool after an intense bout of physical activity”. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 2014 Jan; 46(1) pp 131-42 PMID: 24343353
3). MacDonald et al. “An acute bout of self-myofascial release increases range of motion without a subsequent decrease in muscle activation or force”. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2013 March; 27(3): pp 812-21. PMID: 22580977
4). Okamoto et al. “Acute effects of self-myofascial release using a foam roller on arterial function”. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2014 January;28(1): pp 69-73. PMID: 23575360