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What muscles should you not foam roll?

Foam rolling has become a popular way to alleviate muscle soreness and tension. However, there are certain areas of the body that should be avoided when foam rolling to prevent injury. In this article, we will discuss which muscles you should not foam roll and why.


You should avoid directly foam rolling over the spine or vertebrae. The spine is made up of small vertebrae that can be damaged if too much pressure is applied. Foam rolling over the spine can also compress nerves exiting the spinal cord, leading to pain or numbness.

Why avoid foam rolling the spine

  • Can damage vertebrae
  • Can compress spinal nerves
  • Risk of pain or numbness


The tailbone, also known as the coccyx, is a small triangular bone at the bottom of the spine. This area should be avoided when foam rolling because the tailbone has little protection over it compared to the rest of the spine.

Why avoid foam rolling the tailbone

  • Tailbone lacks padding or protection
  • Easy to apply too much pressure
  • Risk of bruising or fracture


You should avoid rolling directly over the front of the neck or throat. This area contains delicate structures including the trachea, thyroid gland, and carotid arteries. Applying pressure here can restrict breathing and blood flow.

Why avoid foam rolling the neck

  • Can restrict breathing
  • Can compress blood vessels
  • Risk of injury to thyroid gland


The kidneys are located on either side of the spine in the upper to mid back. These organs can be damaged if excessive pressure is applied over them during foam rolling. Avoid rolling directly over the kidneys.

Why avoid foam rolling the kidneys

  • Kidneys are fragile organs
  • Easy to apply too much force over kidneys
  • Risk of bruising kidneys

Lower Ribs

You should avoid directly rolling over the lower ribs in the front of the body. The lower ribs do not have as much protection as the upper ribs. Applying your full body weight can cause bruising or fractures in this area.

Why avoid foam rolling the lower ribs

  • Lower ribs lack padding
  • Risk of fracture with too much pressure
  • Possibility of bruising

Inner Thigh

The inner thighs contain many large blood vessels and nerves that could be damaged by excessive pressure from foam rolling. Avoid placing the full weight of your body directly on the inner thighs.

Why avoid foam rolling the inner thighs

  • Contains femoral artery and vein
  • Many nerves lie close to surface
  • Risk of nerve damage or bruising

Behind the Knee

The area behind the knee contains many blood vessels and nerves including the popliteal artery and vein. Avoid rolling directly over the back of the knee.

Why avoid foam rolling behind the knees

  • Popliteal vessels can be compressed
  • Numbness or nerve pain possible
  • Increased risk of blood clots

Bony Prominences

Areas of the body where bones are close to the skin should be avoided when foam rolling. These bony prominences provide little padding between the bone and the rolling device. Some examples include:

  • Outside of the hip/greater trochanter
  • Outside of the knee/lateral epicondyle
  • Top of the shoulders/acromion process
  • Lower portion of the ankle/lateral malleolus

Why avoid bony prominences

  • Minimal padding over the bone
  • Increased risk of bruising
  • Potential to fracture bones

Inflamed or Injured Tissues

Avoid foam rolling directly over any area that is currently injured or inflamed. The increased pressure can aggravate sensitive tissues and delay healing. Some examples include:

  • Sprained ankle
  • Hamstring strain
  • Tennis elbow
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Recent surgery sites

Why avoid inflamed or injured tissues

  • Aggravates injury or inflammation
  • Causes additional pain
  • Delays the healing process


While foam rolling provides many benefits, it should be done carefully by avoiding high-risk areas of the body. Roll gently over bony regions and avoid direct pressure on the spine, tailbone, neck, kidneys, lower ribs, inner thighs, behind the knees, and inflamed or injured tissues. Focus on larger, well-padded muscles groups to safely reap the rewards of foam rolling.

Muscle/Body Part Reasons to Avoid
Spine Risk of damage to vertebrae or spinal nerves
Tailbone Lack of padding, risk of fracture
Neck Can restrict breathing and blood flow
Kidneys Fragile organs, risk of bruising
Lower Ribs Risk of fracture from lack of padding
Inner Thighs Many major blood vessels lie close to surface
Behind Knees Can compress popliteal artery and vein
Bony Prominences Minimal padding, risk of bruising or fracture
Inflamed/Injured Tissues Aggravates injury, delays healing