Just Keep Rolling

Foam Rolling Mistakes

3 Common Mistakes Made With Foam Rolling

Have you ever felt tight, stiff or sore in your body?

Of course we all have at some point. One of the most effective ways to manage these symptoms on your own is using a foam roller.

Foam rolling is an effective tool and a commonly prescribes rehab tool we prescribe here at the Whole body clinic to help our patients get back to their peak. A foam roller is cheap, easy and convenient to use and should be a standard household item for injury prevention and recovery, improving posture, decreasing muscle tightness and tension and improving your performance in sports, in the gym or other fitness activities.

Using a roller incorrectly, however, can lead to ineffective use, muscle soreness and potentially injury to the spine.

Here are the top 3 common mistakes so you avoid these negative side effects:

1. Rolling on your lower back or neck

Why It’s Bad: Placing a foam roller beneath your lumbar spine (aka lower back) or neck will accentuate the lordotic curve we have in these areas and can cause hyperextension of the spine leading to irritation and injury. Whenever you’re rolling, it’s important to stay stable through the core and maintain spinal stability.

What to Do Instead: If you have discomfort in your lumbar spine, work on releasing tension in your gluteal (buttock), hamstring and quadricep muscles, and through your mid back instead. Tightness in these areas often leads to aches in your lower back.

Pain in your neck? Relieving tension through the muscles in your mid to upper back will alleviate tension and often pain in your neck. Targeting this area in the roller is a much safer way to manage neck.

2. Rolling too quickly

Why It’s Bad: If you roll over tight painful muscles too quickly, the muscle will likely react and reflexively tightenen up further to protect itself or because you subconsciously tense up.

Rolling too quickly will usually be ineffective because you won’t be able to target the specific tissue that is tight and dysfunctional, where the real problem lies. This usually requires targeting the deeper muscles and rolling quickly will only focus on the superficial layers, meaning we won’t get the positive change in the muscle tissue that we’re looking for.

Typically it takes 30 to 60 seconds of rolling in one spot on a tight muscle to get it to respond. It might take longer depending on how tight you are and how wide spread.

What to Do Instead: Spend at least a minute per problem area, but be sure to take it slow and focus on the specific tissues that you feel need attention.

If you only have a few minutes to devote to rolling, your time is best spent releasing only a few muscles in a slow, controlled way.

3. Staying too long on a muscle 

Why It’s Bad: If a knot doesn’t seem to be releasing, continuing to work on it will likely just cause more soreness, or bruising and injury.

What to Do Instead: If a problem area won’t release, try working above or below that muscle instead. For example, if you hit a stubborn knot in your quads, roll just outside of it, or work more on your hip flexors, or glute muscles. Often working around the affected muscle will be more effective.