Foam Roller ≠ Doctor

I love that people are taking their {running} health seriously by stretching, cross training, yoga-ing, foam rolling and being generally awesome, responsible runners.

You go.

CT  CTH rollerfit.jpg

Pink devil.

I’m proud of all of you.

But we need to talk about something. Like, how the foam roller isn’t a doctor. I know all the articles are telling you that if you foam roll til you can’t walk anymore and stretch all day every day that your IT Band syndrome will miraculously disappear.



But why? Well, because injuries are complicated. It’s not just confused, pissed off muscle fibers that tangle up for no reason. There are lots of reasons.

Like opposing muscle weakness.

Like funky foot patterns.

Like terrible running form.

Like tightness somewhere seemingly unrelated (but it IS related ‘cuz everything’s related!)

Like misaligned structures in your foot…

…or hips…

…or head or neck or ribcage or scapula.

You get the picture, right? There is no amount of foam rolling and stretching and icing that can realign your pelvis by joint manipulation of your hip flexors and activation of your glutes.

See? That’s a lot for someone who’s NOT a physical therapist to diagnose and do. First of all, you can’t manipulate most of your own joints. It’s just not happening. Second, you can’t watch yourself run from all angles to diagnose imbalances. And third, you can’t treat yourself.

Just 'cuz I wear the scrubs doesn't mean I treat myself. I have a whole list of professionals I see for my bod.

Just ‘cuz I wear the scrubs doesn’t mean I treat myself. I have a whole list of professionals I see for my bod.

Let me ask you a question? Did you go to school for an extra 2-4 years of grad school and get licensed by the state and are you considered an expert in the field of musculoskelatal movement? No? Oh.


I get it. You know a lot about your body and running. You’ve maybe “fixed” this problem before (but did you if it came right back when you ramped up your mileage?).

But you’re not an expert. You’re not a doctor.

Yo. Bad form.

Yo. Bad form.

If you have a problem, see a doctor. Most physical therapists these days are doctors of physical therapy. They are experts. This is their thing. Go see them.

The foam roller is not a doctor, nor is it a cure-all for running injuries. Get it taken care of before it keeps you from your next PR.

Now go out and run.

8 thoughts on “Foam Roller ≠ Doctor

  1. I’m a runner, who has been focussing on my running form since April 2012. I’ve switched my shoes, and been to tons of running form clinics, and have had success. I totally agree with you! I’ve never had an injury, “knock on wood,” but my cousin is a PT and when I was feeling a little discomfort in my hip (when I first got my road bike for cross training) I thought about buying a foam roller. I went to see her, and asked what she thought about foam rolling, and she said foam rolling can cause more problems especially when areas have inflammation. Turned out my bike was not fitted properly and needed to be adjusted. And my hip had inflammation. I got my bike fitted, rested for about 4-6 weeks, and iced my hip. Ice is so simple but also so healing. I haven’t had any problems since. I’m glad I got the advice I needed, and didn’t waste my money on a foam roller.

  2. Funny you posted this today as my PT sent me to the foam roller today. I’m still recovering from a recurring injury and hoping that adherence to the PT prescribed exercises will help this time be the charm that gets be back in the game!

  3. As with all health issues, everyone should practice prevention wherever possible, which is what stretching, ramping up slowly, rolling, etc. Prevention is not full-proof, though, and I completely agree that treatment should ALWAYS be done by a doctor. You would go to a doctor for an illness, an injury should be no different. Really great post on this important topic. Thanks!

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