This post is an ode to one of my favorite things: my high density foam roller. This may be the first “ode to a roller” you’ve read, but hopefully it won’t be the last–especially if you suffer from back pain. For me, the roller is an essential tool that has rescued me from numerous bouts of back pain. Better yet, it has time and again prevented such pain in the first place.
If you’ve ever encountered one of these babies (e.g. foam rollers), you already (likely) know many of its benefits. It’s great for releasing muscular tension,which is what I mainly use it for, but it’s also great for exercising and stretching. Google something along the lines of “foam roller exercises” or “foam roller stretches” to get an idea of how many exercise- and stretch-related uses foam rollers have. In this moment, my intention isn’t to highlight those uses of the roller, it’s to talk about how I use it to release muscular tension. So…let’s get back to the back, in a matter of speaking.
For many years post-military, I’ve had more than my fair share of back problems. My main issue involves mid- and lower-back pain, but I also carry a great deal of tension in my upper back and shoulders–not to mention my butt and legs. Yep, you’ve guessed it, I’m “knot” city, population: me (if not population: us)!
To alleviate my pain, I use the roller to “roll” into the deep tissue of my butt and legs in particular. Why those areas? Well, let me answer that question as a chiropractor once did for me: “Imagine your back as a (muscle-based) river into which all streams (of muscle-based tension) flow.” Now, he likely didn’t mean all streams, but his point was well made and he did emphasize how my butt and leg muscles interconnect with and impact my back. I also roll into the muscle tissue of my upper back, shoulders, and neck. The result has been that I much less frequently have back pain–not to mention leg, butt, shoulder, and neck pain–and, when I do have it, I am able to alleviate the pain much more quickly.
I won’t go into the specifics of my routine, because every back and back pain is unique. Certainly there are numerous similarities, but what works for me may not work for you. That said, I do my best to “relax into” the muscle while using the roller so that the roller can more effectively release my muscle-based tension. I roll into knots and pause on them. I take my time, roll several times into each muscle and/or muscle area, and really get deep tissue level relief because I’m aiming for the deeper tissues of each muscle.
Where your back pain is concerned, my best advice is for you to check out some of the information the internet has to offer. Watch a few YouTube videos and gain a better visual understanding of how different people use their roller–and how various professionals recommend use of the roller–to get an idea of how it may help you. You might even belong to a gym or similar facility that has one or several rollers on hand for you to try? Maybe you can locate a store that has them on hand for similar reason? If you do decide to buy a foam roller, the internet often offers the best deals. Check here, check there, and check everywhere to get yourself a good roller at a good price if you so desire.
A few things to know: There are different foam densities (denoted by the roller’s color) that enable different levels of contact intensity (at very least when using the roller as I do to relieve muscular tension). Black is the firmest and white is the least firm. In-between there are a couple of blue rollers of varying density, but these colors and densities don’t necessarily adhere to hard and fast rules. Regardless of color, pay attention to the description of the roller to understand its density. If that’s confusing, look to users’ reviews for more information. If both fail, look elsewhere!
Whatever you decide, to roll or not to roll, I wish you (and me!) a healthy and happy back!