Traditional foam rolling, also called self-myofascial release, is a technique that uses body rolling/compression over very hard rollers or balls under particular body parts to improve blood flow to muscles. These techniques have been used for decades, beginning with hands-on treatment techniques of people like Andrew Taylor Stills in the late 1800s and early 1900s, and have been expanded upon for about 100 years. However, the traditional concept that to get out of pain you have to inflict pain is still steadfast in self-treatments using SMFR.
However, Stills was simply under the premise, to which I entirely believe, that a human body could operate efficiently into old age, if properly maintained and that every living organism possessed the ability to produce all the necessary chemicals and materials to cure itself of ailments. The refined work of Stills and other great bodyworkers of our time didn't intend for pain to be of primary importance when caring for a body yet, in the 1980s the "no pain no gain" concepts were steadfast in the fitness industry of the time.
Sadly, this concept is still the foundation of fitness. Now that SMFR is in fitness, this too has the same mentality. The way many people perceive SMFRs premise is, roll along an area of your body like ironing a shirt. When you find a lump or painful spot wait on it, rub more, wait more and let it go. In fact, the more it hurt the more benefit it creates. I've trained in many different hands-on modalities both light and deep touch. Never has a teacher told me that the principle of the technique was to inflict pain as a way to get a client out of it.
My system, the MELT Method, is not self-myofascial release but does use compression and tension techniques to rehydrate the supportive connective tissue system to aid in movement without pain. In fact, when you MELT it feels good while you do it and you feel better when you are done. If anything MELT does causes pain, it's the cue to ease back tension or compression so you get the best results.
For the general public, it's the only method that services any person at any age with any issue as a self-care tool to get out and stay out of pain.