Foam roller or massage? How effective is the foam roller?

As massage therapists we often suggest that you use a foam roller as part of our aftercare advice.  But why use a foam roller, and does it actually work?

Benefits of foam rollers and massage 

Foam rollers can release tension and tightness between the muscles and the fascia when used correctly, and can complement the effects of massage

Benefits brought by both massage and the foam roller:

  • helps prevent injury 
  • helps recovery
  • breaks down scar tissue
  • improves mobility and flexibility
  • removes lactic acid

Additional benefits of massage:

  • loosens tight muscles
  • reduces swelling
  • increases blood circulation
  • relieves pain and tension

Massage has more benefits and is more effective long-term than using the foam roller as you would expect from a focused treatment by a trained professional.   However, the foam roller is a useful piece of equipment to use on a regular basis, particularly when combined with stretching exercises.

Using the foam roller correctly can make the effects of your massage last longer, delaying the build-up of tension between massage treatments, especially if you are training hard or have a lifestyle which can be counter-productive to good posture, for example, having a desk-based job. 

Some areas would benefit from using the foam roller, others would benefit more from stretching exercises and this is where your therapist can help advise you, plus the correct use of the foam roller. 

Will using the foam roller hurt?   

It can do. People have a love/hate relationship with their foam roller!  You use your body weight with the foam roller so, although it can hurt, you can control it (a bit!).  

You don't need to spend much time using the foam roller, 5-10 minutes a day is sufficient, as long as you use it correctly and regularly.  

We think the benefits of doing foam rolling outweigh not making it part of your routine, but ensure that you are using it correctly or you could risk irritating or injuring your body further. 

Need more advice?  

If you need any more information about using the foam roller correctly, exercises to try, or if you want to road test one please speak to one of our therapists. We also have a number of foam rollers available to purchase.  

Happy rolling!