How to Use a Foam Roller for Deep Tissue Massage

Using a foam roller is certainly not complicated - but it's important to use it correctly to ensure you get the best results when it comes to deep tissue massage.


When you are ready to get down to some serious rolling you should choose an area which is reasonably open, with enough space around you to move about comfortably.


You must ensure the surface you are about to roll on is completely level - whether this is indoors or outdoors - and there are no small objects around which could damage your foam roller, or cause injury to yourself.


If you have any concerns at all about using a foam roller, it is always best to seek the advice of a doctor or other professional, such as a physical therapist. This is particularly true if you have any existing medical issues such as heart, vascular or chronic pain conditions. It's much better to be safe than sorry.

Using a Foam Roller

Self myofascial release is the fancy name for self-massage, the type of massage done with a foam roller. Using the foam roller to apply pressure to points of tension on the body you are able to help the body recover faster, increase circulation and improve flexibility.


It is important to warm up your muscles with some stretching exercises before using a roller. Also ensure you avoid using a roller directly on joints or bones and try to rest your muscles the day after a rolling session - it is best not to roll on consecutive days.


Here are the basic steps for using a foam roller. We discuss specific exercises for the various parts of the body elsewhere on this site.


  • Put your body weight on top of the roller, with the targeted muscles pressing against the roller.


  • Control the pressure by using your hands and feet to lift yourself off the roller or to let yourself down onto the roller. If one position seems impossible, try another.


  • Try positioning the roller in various directions with respect to your body — try perpendicular, parallel, and or 45 degree positions to see what results you get.


  • Find a tight, tender or sore areas on your body - this is the area where your body weight will set about creating the pressure to massage and release tight spots in your fascia.


  • Place the roller under the spot and roll backwards and forwards to target the tight or knotted muscle.


  • Work on the spot until around 50% of the tenderness has diminished. At first this may be uncomfortable but it should get easier with time as tight muscles start to loosen up.


  • Find other areas on the body that are sore and the repeat the described process.


  • When you come across a particularly sore or tight area, often called a trigger point, you should hold the roller still in that exact position until the muscle located there softens.


  • You may experience some discomfort, but this is known as 'good' pain and is to be expected when working knotted or sore muscles. If you experience sharp 'bad' pain you should stop rolling immediately and consider seeking proper medical advice.


  • If you are new to foam rolling you should keep you sessions short to begin with - ideally around 15 minutes maximum. You can increase the time period as you become more experienced.


  • It is important to drink plenty of water after using your roller, to encourage hydration, the same as you would after a workout at the gym or a run.


  • Continue to use the foam roller in the future to prevent these areas becoming sore again.


It is wise to foam roll without wearing any footwear, particularly bulky shoes. Apart from the restriction and comfort aspect, this is because there are lots of very small muscles in your feet which will not be able to get involved in beneficial roller exercises if you are not barefoot.


Generally speaking, when using a foam roller to ease a muscle knot, you should feel a dull pain as the muscle is forced to release tension. If you feel a sharp pain that really hurts, something significant may be wrong, and it could be time to consider visiting a doctor, physical therapist, osteopath or chiropractor.


Foam rolling is an excellent method of releasing tension in your muscles and improve recovery from workouts, which will ultimately improve physical performance capabilities and help prevent future injury.


For more advice on foam rolling various part of the body, check out our article using a roller on specific groups of muscles.