Foam Rolling

Some of you who have visited the clinic may have noticed a blue foam cylinder propped up in one corner – this is my foam roller, and it’s my essential item for DIY-soft tissue work.  It’s basically a very dense foam which you can use to apply pressure along various parts of your body, squeezing out some of those knots and bands that build up in overworked muscle.

I’ve started recommending them to a number of my patients for a variety of purposes, but I have been asked if I would be able to come up with a series of exercises that make used of it…bring on this week’s blog!

I have selected 5 of my favourite exercises to do with a foam roller, but please remember this list is not exhaustive.  If you have a tight muscle and can figure a way to adapt your position on the roller to allow you to massage that muscle…go for it! There are no hard-and-fast rules, so get inventive and try things out.

  1. The Thoracic and Lumbar Roll

This is probably the most common use I have for the roller, and is very straight forward.  Lie on the floor with the roller positioned across your back underneath you. Support your neck with your hands, and then slowly use your legs to push yourself up and down over the roller.  If you find a particularly sore spot, spend a little time focussing just on there, but otherwise a good all-over workout will help release those tensions and sore points in your back.

  1. The Lat Dorsi Roll

This one is very similar to the Thoracic and Lumbar Roll, but aimed more at the muscles down the side of your back.  When you lie on your back and roll up and down, twist your body through your hips so that there is more pressure on one side of your back.

  1. ITB Roll

Your ITB is a band down the side of your thigh, and is commonly tight in runners and other athletes.  It can cause a number of problems, including hip and knee pain, if it is allowed to continue in this way, and can be quite difficult to just stretch out.  Enter foam roll.  Lie on your side with the foam roll positioned across your leg underneath your thigh.  Use your arms to pull yourself  up and down the roll.  WARNING: this hurts.  A lot.  But it’s worth it.

  1. Quads Roll

Another leg one, this time for the front of your thigh. Lie on your front, with the foam roll across your leg under your thigh, and roll up and down.  A good one for anyone who finds the traditional quad stretches hard to do, for example if standing on one leg is just too hard for you!

  1. Calf Roll

If you get a lot of cramp in your calf or foot, then it may be because you have tight muscles in this area.  A common problem, especially with athletes or women who wear high heeled shoes, it is extremely painful when it does cramp.  Again, sometimes it’s difficult to do a straight forward stretch here – if you have restricted movement through the ankle for some reason, for example.  Place the foam roll under your calf, use the other leg crossed over to add a bit more pressure and roll the foam roller along the length of the muscle.


So there are some stretches for you to have a go with.  The foam roll can also be used as an excellent core strength tool – I’ll discuss this further next time!