I'm a pretty big advocate of using a foam roller to help free up tissue, even if some people claim it's for a very small amount of time. My views on this. If one uses the new range of motion within this time frame, one gets stronger and gradually increases the tissue quality in that new ROM.
Is there a difference in the method one chooses? I believe there is.
There are things called mechanoreceptors in your muscles, ligaments, joint capsules and fascia. They respond to different pressures, frequencies and oscillations. A few of these mechanoreceptors are called ruffini, pacini and interstitial receptors.
Ruffini (type 2) respond to deep sustained pressure. This would be where the foam roller would be of most value. It has the ability to inhibit the sympathetic nervous system. When a muscle is tight or short, this is a good idea. In the therapy world, myofacial release and massage would be of high value. Our central nervous system receives the most input from the myofascial tissues. (more then eyes, ears, skin)
Pacini receptors respond to vibration and rapidly changing pressure, many think a high velocity low amplitude adjustment (HVLA) common in chiropractic, stimulate this form. This would also be where the vibration would be of value. The biggest benefit to this is an increase in proprioception and kinesthesia. One becomes more aware of posture and where one's body is in space.
Another home therapy tool is a popular product called The Stick. This does the least amount in terms of therapy in my opinion. It mostly just stimulates afferent impulses from the skin. Similar to using a vegetable brush. This would be something you could use to rapidly run across muscles before a lift or immediate activity.
The interstitial receptors are the newest receptors discovered. They are further classified into Type 3 and Type 4. These in fact make up the majority of your muscle receptors at about 80%. In the past they were thought to perform pain reception as they terminate in free nerve endings. They are now accepted to be primarily mechanoreception, so they respond to pressure and mechanical tension, along with pain reception. They also seem to have a huge influence on fluid dynamics.
The Interstitial receptors respond to slow deep sustained pressure, just like the ruffini. So again the foam roller becomes the go to method. It has been shown that their stimulation increases parasympathetic activity. Global muscle relaxation is the outcome. This is the goal for most people dealing with chronic pain, loss of ROM or increased recovery.
Choose your home therapy tool wisely.