Are Foam Rollers Any Good or Not?

Often patients ask me what I think about foam rollers. Truthfully I have never experimented with them with enough regularity  to come to a decision, but the question always gives me pause. That said I love using my "noodle" – a hollow foam pool tube with two tennis balls inside (thank you Kim Phillips!) to work on my vertebrae. I don't think that qualifies as a foam roller, per se. My friend Chris Frederick, co-founder of Stretch To Win, isn't sure about foam rollers either and posted a rather thoughtful and forceful essay on his blog, saying: " too much of a good thing becomes what I call ‘over-dosing’ & becomes negative in its effect. Clients must be told that over-rolling (i.e. too much rolling or static lying over an object) is not good and simply mashing an area for long duration causes damage, delays healing & may increase scar tissue.".

The crucial bit is that all-important dose response but Chris also addresses another bugbear of mine as well, continuing "Before I discuss dosing (which I will do in a follow up post if readers contribute to this post), I must say DON’T CALL ANY KIND OF SELF ROLLING SELF MYOFASCIAL RELEASE!!

"For those that don’t know, myofascial release or MFR comes from the physical therapy (John Barnes, PT) and bodywork field and has very specific parameters using certain outlined guidelines but greatly guided by the practitioner’s hands in response to the client’s real time mind-body feedback. That means one would NEVER always use the same parameter, like some have instructed one should always body roll or lie over a spot for 15-30 seconds. That makes no sense in the MFR world. If you have taken at least one workshop in the practical application of using MFR with your hands on a client THEN you can use those principles & apply it to using a tool like a ball or roller to get vaguely similar (but definitely NOT the same) effects. Anyone who has this training knows that the conventional rolling we all see out there in the field is not true MFR in the least. This means that the great majority of professionals in fitness who are not also trained as bodyworkers who have also not  trained in MFR are calling the rolling that they do self MFR or SMFR when it is NOT that at all."

I recommend you read the whole piece in it's entirety. Especially the excellent discussion thread that it has started. You can find it all here.