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Top tips for using a foam roller

Updated: Apr 15

Image of a woman foam rolling her vastus lateralis muscle

If you’re a runner, play sport or suffer from leg pain, there’s no doubt you own a foam roller. Most people will know the pain of lying on your side to release the ITB (Illio-Tibial Band), but the foam roller is extremely versatile and can be used to release muscle tightness, stretch and even core stability. Here are a few modifications you can add to your routine.

Muscle release/stretching

The most common use of a foam roller is to release muscle tension, this doesn’t have to be painful, even soft pressure helps to improve circulation and release tight muscles.


There’s no perfect time, “a little and often” works for ongoing muscle tightness, but if you suffer from muscle soreness during a run/sport/exercise classes try a routine pre and post.

Pelvic muscles:

There are multiple areas the foam roller can be used for the pelvis, we will focus on; TFL (tensor fasciae latae) which is often tight when compensating for weak glutes; the piriformis muscle, often overactive associated with low back pain and stiffness and tight with a lot of sitting and the always irritating ITB!


This muscle is small and thin muscle at the front of the hip and thigh, which is closely associated with the ITB through its attachment. The muscle is an assisting muscle with the role of keeping the pelvis balanced in walking/running and sitting. TFL can be responsible for tightness causing anterior pelvic tilt, pain when lying on the affected side and in chronic cases pain down the outside of the leg towards the knee.

  • Place the foam roller horizontal

  • Lying with the roller just under the prominent pelvic bone at the front

  • Bend the knee to 90 degrees and slowly rotate body in and out.


This muscle is a deep gluteal muscle which originates at the base of the posterior pelvis and inserts into the side of thigh. Pain may be felt in the buttock with long periods of sitting, walking especially uphill or uneven path. This is often a sign of overuse as it may be compensating for inactive muscles, which may need review by your physiotherapist.

  • Start by sitting on the foam roller, (in acute cases this may be enough)

  • Gently shift weight to one buttock and cross the leg over the opposite knee.

  • Slowly rotate towards the affected side and finally add a slow roll up and down.


This may be the main reason everyone will buy a foam roller, and the most painful! The ITB is a band of fascial connective tissue which originates at the pelvis blending with the gluteus maximus muscle and the TFL. It tracks down the outer part of the leg, and when tight can be easily felt by palpating along the band. An overactive ITB is often caused by poor hip and pelvic biomechanics commonly associated with weak and poor muscle recruitment and can cause knee pain. This should be addressed with a comprehensive program by your physiotherapist. For symptomatic relief and reducing the pain a foam roller works well to release this tension.

  • Side lying on the foam roller, if the ITB is very painful to touch use your hands in front to support your weight and reduce this. It is not always beneficial to ‘roll’ up and down the length of the thigh, take time to slowly move to points of tightness and hold for at least 30 seconds.

TOP TIP: Remember the ITB is a wide band, and lying just on your side may not expose the tight areas. Rotate forward and back to focus on the inner and outer components

The key thing to remember when using your foam roller is that it should feel good and never painful! If you need some guidance with your foam roller or are feeling pain when using it, book an appointment with one of our Physiotherapists or Myotherapists who can help you. Persistent tight muscles can indicate an underlying cause and your physio can help with this.

At In Stride Health Clinic we sell a range of foam rollers, drop into the clinic and we can help you choose the best one for you.

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