Here’s Why Foam Rolling Hurts So Much

2021-04-16 - Mikael Shams

You want to know why foam rolling hurts.

You have tried out a few exercises, (great job!), but you want to know if you are doing it right.

There are a couple different reasons why foam rolling can hurt. You could simply be doing it wrong which can cause more harm than good or it might just be that your muscles are sore and the pain you are feeling is just what you need. What you want to achieve is a feeling of light pain that gives a sensation of relief to your muscles. Either way, let’s get you up to speed on why your foam rolling hurts so much.

In short, foam rolling hurts because:

  • You are putting to much weight on the roller
  • You are doing it at the wrong places
  • You roll too far and allow your roller to travel beyond your muscles.
  • You position yourself wrong which makes you approach your roller from the incorrect angle.

 Let us explain in a little more detail.

There are two major reasons why it hurts, the first one is:

It hurts because you are doing it wrong

The most common reasons why foam rolling hurts is because you are not doing it right. The mistakes we see most often are:

Putting too much weight on the roller

One typical beginner mistake while foam rolling is putting too much pressure and weight on the roller. After all, your entire body weight is being concentrated to one spot.

The trick to prevent this is to use your feet and hands to lighten the weight you are putting on your foam roller. By doing so, you will stabilize the pressure which will enable you to find the sweet spot where you are releasing tension. The goal is to find a balance where you can feel the foam roller massaging your muscles while slowly expanding them.

You should not feel a sting but rather a tingly sensation in your muscles.

Using the roller on the wrong places.

Avoid using the roller on small joints such as elbows, knees and ankles. Areas on your body that consist mostly of bone should be ignored in general. Using a foam roller in these areas will most likely do you more harm instead of rehabilitation. (check out what areas to foam roll with our collapsible foam roller)

Other areas to be cautious of are your IT band and your lower back. Although some people feel relief from foam rolling these areas, the muscles are very difficult to stretch out.

If you still want to foam roll your IT band, try to focus on the upper area called tensor fasciae latae. For your lower back, it’s best to focus on the areas surrounding your lower back. For example, relieving your hamstrings can in some cases help with lower back pain as they are connected to the hip bone we sit on.

It hurts although you are doing it right

We’ve now established some common mistakes that can cause pain, but even if you use a roller perfectly, it may still hurt. As shocking as it might sound, foam rollers are supposed to hurt a little bit. The reason why has to do with how foam rollers release the tension in your muscles.

If you’ve done any research about foam rollers you’ve probably stumbled upon the word “fascia” and had no clue about what it is. Fascia is a thin casing of connective tissue that surrounds and holds everything inside our body in place. When the fascia becomes restricted, it puts pressure on nerves and muscles that causes pain. And this is the part where the foam roller plays its role.

Simply explained, the fascia gets tightly attached to your muscles which causes pain and stiffness and by applying pressure and moving the fascia (with the roller), you loosen up the fascia. Which in turn removes stiffness and lets your muscles relax, ultimately making you more flexible. This process does most often hurt a little bit, so as you are getting ready to foam roll, remind yourself of the benefits it gives you.

There you have it, hopefully you’ve gained better understanding of why foam rolling hurts. Next time you are getting on your foam roller, start by understanding how your foam roller should be used for one specific muscle.

As you get to know how your roller and your muscle group work together, move on to the next one. Remember that foam rolling requires you to be consistent to see results. Just like any other type of exercise, one occasion won’t make any difference.

If you have any questions regarding foam rolling, or want to know a bit more about how to foam roll a particular muscle group, get in touch with us.