What Are Foam Rollers?

Alex Paul

Foam rollers are cylindrical objects made of industrial foam. The foam isn’t soft, as many people expect, but is designed not to give way when weight is placed on it. This allows it to be used for self-massage by rolling the foam roller up and down in a slow motion. Foam rollers are often used by amateur and professional athletes to keep muscles in good condition without having to pay for a professional massage.

In some instances, knee pain is caused by "knots" in the quadriceps muscles.
In some instances, knee pain is caused by "knots" in the quadriceps muscles.

Many athletes get injuries or niggling pain that doesn’t seem to go away. This can be the result of a variety of conditions, including “knots” of muscle. These knots affect how the muscles work and can place extra strain on the joints. Knee pain, for example, is sometimes caused by lumps in the quadriceps muscles. While stretching is effective for increasing the length of normal muscle tissue, it is not effective at working out muscle knots.

The sponge curler is a type of foam roller that is a hairstyling tool.
The sponge curler is a type of foam roller that is a hairstyling tool.

A foam roller provides a simple solution to the problem. By putting the foam roller between the floor and body, the athlete can use his or her body weight to apply pressure to the knots in the muscle by rolling up and down the length of it. This lengthens the muscle and also helps to break up knots of scar tissue, which is known as self-myofascial release. The amount of pressure can easily be adjusted by the person using it by altering the amount of body weight on the roller.

Foam rolling is usually straightforward to perform. If there are muscle knots in the front of the thigh, for example, then the athlete lies face down with the roller at the top of the thigh. Slowly, while applying downward pressure, the athlete rolls the roller down the leg, pausing at any tender spots. Initially, foam rolling a tight and knotted muscle is painful, but this decreases over time.

One of the benefits of foam rollers is that they can be used at home. This means the athlete can work on lengthening his or her muscle and removing knots without having to see a professional. Foam rollers are not as effective as a professional sports massage, but the cumulative effect over time can make a big difference to the health of muscle tissue. Another benefit is the cost, because foam rollers usually cost less than a single professional massage and can be used more than once.

There is another type of foam roller, also known as a sponge curler. It is a hairstyling tool. Damp hair is wrapped around the curler's foam cylinder and held in place by a flexible plastic clasp until thoroughly dry. The soft foam allows for a tight curl and may be more comfortable to sleep in than some other forms of curlers.

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