Using a Foam Roller for Back Pain Relief
Foam roller exercise is also known as self-myofascial release. It combines the benefits of flexibility and massage. Because of their cylindrical shape, foam rollers are an unstable surface. As such, in addition to their therapeutic use, foam rollers can also be used for muscle reeducation. This may prevent future back problems.
Measure the distance between the top of the head and the base of the spine. Choose a foam roller that is long enough to support that distance.
Place the foam roller on the floor in a vertical position. Sit at the edge of the roller. Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor. Ease yourself back until the top of your head and the base of your spine are on the roller. Allow your body weight to sink into the roller. Hold the position for 1 minute.
Practice pelvic tilts while lying on the roller. Remain in the position from the previous section, and inhale to prepare. As you exhale, engage your deep abdominal muscles, and tilt your pelvis off the roller. Perform eight repetitions. Then develop the movement into a partial bridge. Lift the pelvis, the lower back and the middle back from the roller. On the return, let each vertebra touch the roller.
Remain on your back. Roll your body so that your left side is on the roller. Allow your body to sink into the roller. Hold the position for 1 minute. Repeat on the other side.
Roll to one side to get off the roller. Place the roller in the horizontal position. Lie on your back with the roller under your shoulder blades. Place your hands behind your head to support your neck, and keep your head lifted from the floor. Gently roll the roller forward and backward along your mid-back area. If you reach a tender point, hold that position by letting your weight sink into the roller. Continue holding until the pain has subsided by 75 percent.
Roll over onto your stomach. Keep the roller in the horizontal position, and place it under your hip flexors, which connect your thighs with your pelvis. Allow your body weight to sink into the roller. Hip flexion tension is often the cause of lower back pain.
Some companies make a travel foam roller (see Resources).
Avoid using the foam roller if you have a herniated disk.
- Sports Fitness Advisor: Self Myofascial Release
- Su H, Chang NJ, Wu WL, Guo LY, Chu IH. Acute Effects of Foam Rolling, Static Stretching, and Dynamic Stretching During Warm-ups on Muscular Flexibility and Strength in Young Adults. J Sport Rehabil. 2017;26(6):469-477. doi:10.1123/jsr.2016-0102
- Beardsley C, Škarabot J. Effects of self-myofascial release: A systematic review. J Bodyw Mov Ther. 2015;19(4):747-58. doi:10.1016/j.jbmt.2015.08.007
- Some companies make a travel foam roller (see Resources).
- Avoid using the foam roller if you have a herniated disk.
In 1999, Lisa Mercer’s fitness, travel and skiing expertise inspired a writing career. Her books include "Open Your Heart with Winter Fitness" and "101 Women's Fitness Tips." Her articles have appeared in "Aspen Magazine," "HerSports," "32 Degrees," "Pregnancy Magazine" and "Wired." Mercer has a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the City College of New York.