Foam rolling is an effective self-massage technique that will help muscles regain lost flexibility and reduce muscular aches and pains due to a number of reasons. Most commonly because of an over use of repeated exercise or action of the body i.e. prolonged sitting, poor posture, running and strength training can cause muscles to become restricted, resulting in the formation of scar tissue and knots deep within the muscle itself. These restrictions result in soreness of the muscle and a limited ability to perform certain movements or exercises. If left untreated these muscles can become even more restricted and lead to further scar tissue of the surrounding muscles (like a domino effect), with the end result of pain not just affecting you during exercise but also as you go about your daily life.
Foam rolling will warm the muscle (exactly the same as traditional massage), promote blood flow, circulation and help to breakdown the scar tissue and remove it from the muscle - helping the muscle retain full range of motion, thus increasing athletic performance.
I recommend regular rolling as a preventative measure and to include it into your normal routine, keeping your body and muscles unrestricted day to day, and not just only used to repair tight muscles and reduce aches and pains when they occur.
Many muscles can be massaged with a foam roller; feet, calves, shins, hamstrings, quadriceps, glutes, ITB, upper back, lats. Rolling can be done either as a warm up pre-exercise or post-exercise to aid recovery.
To use a roller effectively; begin by warming up the muscle with full rolls completely up and down for 60 seconds, once the muscle is warm next slowly roll down and 'seek-out' the tight (or tender) spots - these are the knots you need to focus on. Apply a medium level of pressure so your body weight is pushing through this 'spot' so that you feel a medium level of discomfort (for you to get the most benefit you do need to do this). Keep the pressure on and hold, after 20-30 seconds the pain should dissipate. Then next, find another tender spot and repeat the 20-30 second pause again - do this another 3-4 times. Finish off with some general rolling up and down the full length of the muscle for 60 seconds. Depending on your level of tightness results are best achieved between 2-3 weeks of frequent rolling sessions. The goal one day is to be pain free when rolling with only a mild level of discomfort.