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Back pain is a more common problem than you are probably thinking it is. In fact, across the United States there are 65 million people who have reported suffering in some way from back pain, with 16 million of those people experiencing chronic or aggressive cases. Even if you’re not someone who leads a physically demanding lifestyle or doesn’t lift weights, you can still develop a nagging case of back pain that limits you in carrying out tasks during your day. The good news is that this pain can be managed, and sometimes even improved, by investing in a foam roller.
Why You Should Be Using a Foam Roller
Massages can be a great remedy to addressing pain in your body. However, not everyone has the money, or the time, for a professional massage or day at the local spa. Foam rollers can be an inexpensive and easy way to reap the benefits of a massage and help manage your back pain.
To effectively use a foam roller, you’ll want to locate the source of pain and place the roller underneath that area, but be careful not to apply too much pressure (it shouldn’t hurt). Once you’ve stabilized yourself with your hands or legs, simply roll back and forth; your attention should be on the areas where you feel the most tension.
In short, the foam roller will create friction that allows the tissue surrounding your muscles to heat up and become more flexible. This process, otherwise referred to as self-myofascial release, will in turn relieve the tension you’re feeling. Even if you’re not suffering from pain in your back, or on another part of your body, this practice can be extremely beneficial to you; not only will you increase your body’s overall flexibility, it can serve as a warm up before a workout, or assist in muscle recovery afterwards.
How to Select the Right Foam Roller
As you can probably imagine, there are a lot of options to choose from when it comes to foam rollers. For example, if you’re looking to recover from a grueling workout you’ll want to select a foam roller that is softer medium density; these are also good options for people who may be new to rolling. Firmer foam rollers are great for providing deep tissue massages.
You may also see some foam rollers outfitted with grooves or ridges. These are great for really digging deep into your body to address aggressive triggers and sources of tension, particularly around your shoulders. This would be a good option for someone who has pain related to poor posture, or if you work out your upper body by lifting heavy weights. Ultimately, you’ll want to consider what you’re looking to get out of your foam roller, and what level of pain you’re suffering from, to make the best choice.
1. Amazon Basics Foam Roller
This high-density foam roller might be basic in design, but it gets the job done. It’s a perfect starter foam roller, or an excellent addition to your pre and post-workout routine. Made from polypropylene for optimal firmness, this extremely lightweight roller works in tandem with your body’s weight to rehabilitate and exercise your muscles. There are multiple size and color options available, depending on your personal preferences.
This is actually a foam roller I was gifted a few Christmases ago and have since used after a session at the gym when I work out my legs and back. Deadlifts and squats can leave those areas on my body feeling sore and tense, but after a few minutes on this foam roller I’m feel an immediate sense of relief.
2. lululemon Double Roller “Mini”
This set of mini rollers from lululemon are every bit as effective as they are fetching, perfectly outfitted for easing tension throughout your body. The exterior roller expertly massages your arms and legs, while the interior roller releases tension in your back. The compact design lends itself to transport, so you can bring it along with you in most backpacks or gym bags.
Out of the many positive reviews on the lululemon site, one reviewer writes that this was recommended by their massage therapist to use for a few minutes a day in between sessions and not only describes the rollers as “a godsend,” but adds that they personally “have never felt better.”
3. Theragun Wave Roller
This is the most expensive option on our list, but you get what you pay for. And boy, with this roller from Theragon you certainly do get a lot. For starters, this is less of a foam rolling session and more of an experience; this roller uses powerful vibrations and its wave-shaped grooves to provide full body support. Additionally, it is Bluetooth-enabled and can be paired with the Therabody app, where you can set personalized recovery routines and automate speed control. It literally takes the concept of foam rolling to a whole other level.
4. OPTP Pro-Roller
If you’re looking for a soft option, you can’t go wrong with this roller from OPTP. At 36 inches long, this roller provide gentle relief in areas that are particularly tight throughout your body, such as your back, hamstrings, calves or quadriceps. You’ll still get an effective massage, but one that doesn’t apply a whole lot of pressure. The heat-molded EVA foam its made from assures maximum durability, even though it is extremely soft, and promises to “outperform and outlast store model foam rollers.”
5. Chirp Wheel
This roller resembles a wheel more than a traditional foam roller, but is perfectly design to not only alleviate pain in your upper and lower back, while also strengthen those muscles and working to prevent deeper rooted issues (such as scar tissue) from developing. In short, not only will you relieve the tension in your muscles, but they’ll be better prepared when/if they sustain damage. Working this into your daily routine can also go a long way to improving your posture. The Chirp Wheel is available in three different sizes, both firm and gentle options, to fit your preferences and needs.