Foam rolling & fascia, what’s it all about?

Mar 28, 2022

Foam rolling, it’s something you hear lot’s about, see people doing. You may have purchased a foam roller on a whim and it’s gathering dust in a corner of your home. You may enthusiastically use one on a regular basis but aren’t really sure what it’s doing?!

There are a variety of different foam rollers or ‘self soft-tissue release’ techniques which can help a variety of conditions, injuries and more importantly prevent injury, pain and dysfunction. 

Foam rolling is defined as……

A mechanical technique that mimics massage by applying pressure to fascia and muscle.

It can be particularly painful when you first start, much like having a sports massage or doing a new activity. But what is fascia?!?!

FasciaFascia is a connective tissue throughout the whole body, it provides a framework to protect individual muscles, other tissues, and organs. If
you imagine an orange, the outside of the orange is your skin, the thicker white pith just under the orange skin would be the fascia and the flesh of the orange would be your muscles. Fascia orange peel

The benefits of foam rolling are still under researched as this is a relatively new concept; the current evidence suggests foam rolling increases your intolerance of pain and muscle soreness. This would suggest it has more of a psychological/neurophysiological effect than first thought. 

Other benefits still under investigation include:

  • Increases in blood flow – which could enhance blood lactate removal, increase oxygen levels to the muscles and possible decrease tissue swelling. 
  • Improves range of motion and possible muscle/fascial length, thus improving flexibility. 
  • Helps to address muscle imbalance – in combination with massage and strengthening exercises. 

Useful tips:

  • Find a foam roller that suits you, there are many styles and some you can even use without using your core/upper body to roll yourself. For a beginning, we would recommend a straight foam roller without the patterns/spikes. 
  • 30-60 seconds on each major muscle group (gradually build up from 30 seconds). 

Try along at home!


Photo copyright: Elsharkawy, H, Pawa, A & Mariano, E (2018)  Interfascial plane blocks: back to basics. Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine 43:4.

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