Hi Dustin (and Sue),
it is sad to see that the term ‘foam rolling’ is used because it insinuates the use of a foam roller just like a rolling pin back and forth without any system. A foam roller is one of many tools to accomplish certain results
There are two techniques (that I am familiar with) that use foam rollers (among other devices), one is SMR (Self-Myofascial Release), and the other is MELT (Myofascial Energetic Length Technique). SMR typically uses a hard roller, while MELT uses a much softer roller.
The goal of SMR is to treat trigger points which form adhesions. That can result in altered length-tension relationships which in turn can lead to a compromised movement system. It is usually done by compression on a tender spot for about 30 to 90 seconds.
MELT is a self treatment technique which does compression techniques differently by gliding over tight spots in specific ways. There are other techniques where the user lengthens fascia in correspondence to connective tissue lines (as identified in ‘Anatomy Trains’). The goal is to move the fluid that makes up part of the fascia and distribute it more evenly throughout the body so that better alignment is achieved, thus facilitating better posture and movement. It also quiets the stress reflex and leaves people feel very relaxed.
Yes, there can be injuries, and they tend to occur when people attack their bodies on the assumption that the more it hurts the better it has to be. I know of people who have worsened IT band issues by relentlessly rolling over it, preferably with the hardest roller they can find.