Official Website of Sarah E. Rippel, BS, CPT, FMS

-SMR for Tight Hips/Low Back Pain-

So what exactly is SMR or “foam rolling?”

Simply put, it is a technique similar to deep-tissue massage that promotes tissue health.  Our muscles are covered by fascia.  Most people have “unhappy” fascia here and there, in the form of tightness and/or trigger points.  Basically, foam rolling and other techniques serve to “iron out” the fascia, thus promoting better tissue health and balance thoughout the body.

Is it uncomfortable?  

Well, that depends on your perspective.  Most people will definitely notice slight pain when they hit a “hot spot” that needs to be addressed.  Just as with a massage, the level of pain will noticeably decrease as work is done on the affected area.  The key is to RELAX when working on an area, as the natural response is to tense up and hold one’s breath, which can make things worse.  Based on my experience, most people will be able to feel the “release,” and will sense an improvement in mobility after a few minutes of work.  SMR aids in flexibility and is therefore something that should be done on a regular basis.

Which areas should be addressed?

More often than not, I have found that the following areas need work in most people:


  1. Calves/Peroneals (lateral lower leg)
  2. Adductors (inner thighs)
  3. Quads/Hip Flexors (anterior thigh)
  4. IT Band (lateral thigh)
  5. Piriformis (glutes)
  6. Lats (lateral torso)
  7. Thoracic Spine (mid-upper back)


How is SMR performed?

Basically, you roll the affected area over the foam roller (or in the case of a tool such as the Tiger Tail, roll the tool over the area).  The amount of pressure applied is directly related to one’s bodyweight as well as leverage.  When rolling the quads for example, more pressure can be utilized if a person crosses one leg over the other.  This shifts the focus to a single leg versus both legs.  I prefer the 3-foot long roller because it allows people to work both legs at the same time, which I feel is best suited for most people.  In a nutshell, one should stay on a “hot spot” until they notice a decrease in pain and/or tension.  If this is too uncomfortable, rolling back and forth over the area is recommended.  DO NOT roll over your joints!  Also, do not roll out the lower back with the foam roller.  The fascia of this area can be addressed with the Tiger Tail.  


calf-11  calf-21










thoracic-2  thoracic-1

Where do you get a foam roller?

I recommend ordering a foam roller from Perform Better.  I order virtually all of my equipment from them.  They are a great company, easy to deal with, and have great prices.  You can get a 3-foot long roller for $20-$30 depending on the style you choose.  Most people will do well with the basic white roller.  Ready to order?  Click the “roller girl” below (or the link on right side of this page)!  This will take you directly to the foam roller page.  If you have any questions, please let me know!


One response

  1. Sarah,

    Great post on foam rollers.

    I love them.

    Had a heavy week of running last week and spend Saturday night rolling.

    It helped with todays run.

    Keep posting great stuff.

    Rick Kaselj

    November 17, 2008 at 6:43 pm

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