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Misconceptions About Foam Rolling Pain - Reduce the Hurt

Foam Rolling Pain and Pressure
Foam Rolling Pain and Pressure

Foam rolling is an excellent way to recover after exercise, improve your mobility, and feel better in your everyday life. Unfortunately, pain while rolling is a major barrier preventing many people from enjoying the benefits of muscle rolling. Fortunately, proper tools and techniques are available to help you reduce the hurt.

So, why does foam rolling hurt sometimes? And more importantly, how can pain be prevented or reduced?

Keep reading to learn what causes pain while foam rolling, what pain can indicate, , how to lessen discomfort during and after rolling, and how to make the most of your foam rolling routine to feel and perform better.

Why Foam Roll?

It’s no secret that regular foam rolling has a host of valuable benefits. From reducing muscle tension to enhancing circulation, most people swear by their muscle rollers as valuable tools for their health and wellness.

In their most basic form, foam rollers are self-care massage tools. They are most often made with a high-density foam, or a rigid core covered by a layer of foam. Foam rollers are used to apply pressure to muscles and other tissue. This pressure performs a similar function to deep tissue massage and can be used to relax tense muscles, improve flexibility, and speed up recovery.

With the right roller and technique for your needs, the results of massage rolling are hard to ignore. On top of the benefits that foam rolling offers on its own, combining foam rolling with exercise can take your results even further, making some rollers indispensable for athletes and other fitness lovers.

Why Does Foam Rolling Hurt?

While foam rolling has the potential to be a comfortable and relaxing addition to your health and wellness routine, it can also be a painful and grit-testing experience. That pain and discomfort can be a barrier preventing people from regularly using their roller, which limits the benefits that they can experience. So why do so many experience foam rolling pain?

The majority of people using massage rollers are working with a traditional foam roller, which requires the user to lie on the floor in awkward positions and balance their full bodyweight on the roller. While this can be effective for getting large amounts of pressure, it’s often too much pressure. Not only that, but the pressure is incredibly hard to control, usually leading to excessive discomfort and pain.

Woman painfully laying on a traditional foam roller

Painful: Full Body Weight

Traditional foam rolling can be painful since you are at the mercy of gravity and your body weight. This can apply painful pressure in some areas and insufficient pressure in other areas.

One of the biggest problems of uncontrolled pressure is the potential for bruising. In most cases, bruising occurs when small blood vessels under the skin are broken by pressure, leading to displaced blood that sticks around until the body can clear it out. Some people are more sensitive to bruising, and bruising can lead to more soreness and tenderness while the body heals. Always make sure to start slow and give your body a full day after your first rolling session to watch for any potential bruising that might develop.

While your muscles are tough and more than capable of handling large amounts of pressure, it’s actually your nerves that are primarily to blame for foam rolling pain. Nerve endings line your muscles and the tissue surrounding them, and they can be highly sensitive to pressure. This is especially true in certain areas along your muscle that have a higher pain sensitivity and cause your brain to sense a threat more easily. When your brain senses a threat, pain levels go up, muscle tension and guarding increase, and you are less likely to get positive results from your rolling.

Another reason for foam rolling pain is seriously increased stretch within a muscle. When you lengthen your entire muscle using a traditional stretch, you achieve moderate amounts of stretch along the entire muscle. However, when you lie down on a muscle roller, this places a very big stretch on a very small amount of tissue. Think of stretching the tightest parts of your muscle with excessive pressure, potentially causing pain with enough pressure.

It’s also worth noting that most people have come to believe that foam rolling should be painful. This is usually due to friends, family, or a trainer sharing potentially harmful advice. Some of this misconception comes from being at the mercy of gravity and body weight when using a traditional roller, so people sort of learned to accept the inevitable pain. Remember, more discomfort does not mean you are getting better results, and often means the opposite!

How to Lessen Discomfort During Foam Rolling

Foam rolling can be painful, but it doesn’t have to be. With the proper techniques and a massage roller that provides complete pressure control, you can be well on your way to a comfortable and productive foam rolling session.

There are plenty of tips and tricks to prevent pain while foam rolling, but here are three of the most essential to know:

Use the Correct Pressure and Technique

Above all else, using the right amount of pressure and proper technique are the most important things that you can do to protect yourself from foam rolling pain. Unfortunately, it can be very difficult to control the amount of pressure or technique that you are using with a traditional foam roller on the floor. You will likely experience too much pressure and pain in certain areas, while other areas like calves and other extremities will not receive enough pressure for an effective massage.

This is where DoubleUP Roller shines. Featuring dual rollers with a unique hinged all-metal frame, DoubleUP provides 3:1 leverage to give you complete control of rolling pressure, from extremely gentle to ultra deep. Additionally, DoubleUP’s quick-change roller assortment gives you the versatility to get the desired stimulation to any area that you’re targeting, and without requiring you to awkwardly roll around on the floor with all of your weight on a traditional roller.


DoubleUP's unique all-metal frame and 3:1 leverage provide the ultimate pressure control. Apply extremely gentle massage pressure with only one finger on the handles. Or ramp it up by squeezing harder on the force-multiplying handles to achieve deep-tissue intensity.

It’s often the case that stiff or sore areas won’t tolerate much pressure while foam rolling. However, when you’re working with particularly stiff areas that are handling pressure well, you may need all the pressure that you can comfortably get. With DoubleUP’s powerful leverage, you can effortlessly control rolling pressure from 0 to 120 pounds, giving you the power to turn up the heat when you need to.

Avoid Common Mistakes

When it comes to foam rolling, there are plenty of popular techniques that just don’t do what they advertise. By avoiding four common mistakes, you can avoid harmful pain and fast-track your recovery progress.

  • Attacking tender spots is all-too common with foam rolling enthusiasts. While it intuitively makes sense to go straight for the most sensitive areas head-on, too much pressure applied to highly sensitive areas can actually have negative effects. By working around the most tender spot, you can help relieve tension in the surrounding area and gradually work your way into the sensitive area in future rolling sessions.
  • Trying to break up scar tissue is also an age-old mistake in the massage and foam rolling world. When you feel a bump or nodule along your muscle, it might be tempting to try to break it up with extreme pressure or scraping techniques, especially if we’ve been told by a healthcare professional that it’s possible. In reality, scar tissue cannot be broken up with foam rolling, and attacking it with painful amounts of pressure is more likely to irritate the area and could cause inflammation.
  • Rolling too fast is probably the most common foam rolling mistake, depending on your specific goals. While it might be tempting to roll quickly and save time, when used improperly, this ultimately leads to poorly controlled pressure and discomfort. By slowing down and paying attention to how each section of your muscle feels with a given amount of pressure, you’ll feel more comfortable and have a better chance of getting results with your session. With DoubleUP, certain types of rolling (like warmup/cooldown) can be done more quickly, since you have complete and dynamic pressure control to apply the gentler pressure desirable for those techniques.
  • Using oversized strokes is another common issue that comes up when massage rolling because it takes away the specificity of where your pressure is going. To keep your pressure focused, use shorter strokes that cover the area you’re most interested in at the time. However, if you are dealing with a more sensitive area, then you may still use longer and gentler strokes to give the sensitive area more recovery time between strokes. And again, for certain techniques like warmup/cooldown, long and gentle strokes are actually recommended, and can be done very effectively with DoubleUP compared to traditional rollers.

Progress Gradually

Just like any other exercise or self-care technique, foam rolling takes time to get used to. For many people, starting with too much intensity too soon is a major contributor to foam rolling pain and possible bruising. When you’re just starting with your foam rolling, take some time to get a sense of how much pressure is comfortable for different areas of your body. To do this, use less pressure and a shorter duration than you think you need during your first session, then give your body time to respond over the next day before trying more pressure during your next longer session.

For much lighter pressure during early sessions, the DoubleUP Medium rollers are a great option that can also be gradually progressed to meet your deeper pressure needs. For areas that are especially sensitive, the DoubleUP Soft roller can be used to introduce very light amounts of pressure without causing pain.

Of course, progressing gradually also applies to each session. This means that when you start your session, you’ll want to start with lighter pressure and gradually work your way up to the most pressure that you can comfortably handle. Not only can this improve the benefits of rolling, but it can help your body adjust to pressure and reduce your chances of experiencing foam rolling pain.

Dealing with Pain After Foam Rolling

Although it’s possible to experience pain during foam rolling, many people also experience pain after foam rolling. Why is this, and what can you do about it?

In most cases, pain after foam rolling is caused by overdoing it during your foam rolling session with too much pressure, too much time, or focusing too much on a sensitive area. Your body is designed to protect itself, so these excesses can lead to common problems like inflammation, increased pain sensitivity, and muscle soreness.

While foam rolling can be an effective recovery technique on its own, you’ll want to make sure you’re also making time for other important recovery components such as stretching, proper hydration, and adequate rest. When combined with safe foam rolling technique, these can help get optimal results with your rolling sessions.

Pain can be a normal part of life in small amounts, but living in pain isn’t normal. While taking it easy with your next rolling session is advised when you’re feeling a little sore, if you’re experiencing any of the following, reach out to your doctor for more advice:

  • Persistent pain that doesn’t go away or improve by changing positions.
  • Numbness, tingling, or changes in sensation lasting more than a few hours.
  • New swelling, redness, or tenderness that persists after rolling.
  • Bruising that covers a large area, takes on a deeper color, or isn’t showing signs of improving after a few days.

Foam rolling is one of the safest self-care techniques available, and these recommendations are intended to help you get the most out of your roller while avoiding unintended side effects.

Closing Thoughts

Pain during or after foam rolling can be frustrating, but with the proper tools and techniques, you can prevent pain and enjoy all of the great benefits your roller has to offer. Even better, new and innovative tools like DoubleUP Roller are helping people get up off the floor and so they can achieve the benefits of foam rolling with comfort and convenience.

Pain can be a unique experience for everyone. What matters most is that you always go slow, listen to your body, and ask for help when something doesn’t seem right. Happy rolling!