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How to Foam Roll for Back Pain

If you have mild to moderate acute back pain, it can seem like nothing helps to alleviate the occasional discomfort. A massage sounds great, but who really has the time to schedule one after every workout or every rough week at work? Luckily, there’s an alternative: foam rolling. Foam rolling for back pain is a great way to alleviate occasional discomfort, but it’s essential that you do it correctly to prevent further injury.

Types of Foam Rollers

Foam rollers are lightweight cylinders that people use to massage their bodies. They are present in most gyms, and many athletes use them before and after exercising. However, you can purchase a foam roller online or from almost any sporting goods store for less than $30.

They come in various sizes and firmness, depending on your needs. Some are soft and plusher, which is a great beginner option for those who are more sensitive. Others are more firm for more intense pressure.

Higher-priced options may vibrate or have temperature controls to enhance the experience, but these are not necessary for a great back massage.

Is There a Right Way to Use a Foam Roller?

In short, yes. You must exercise caution when using a foam roller on your spine, as you may cause more harm than good if you are not careful. For example, you do not want to roll the foam roller up and down your neck. Instead, you should lie on the foam roller as a pillow and gently turn your head side to side, as if you are shaking your head no.

Foam Rolling Techniques

The key to foam rolling is the pressure you apply with your body weight, which can be uncomfortable at first if you are using a roller that’s too firm or applying too much force. However, it should never hurt.

Practice foam rolling about three or four times per week as needed for recovery. Always practice care when rising from the foam roller, and give yourself a few minutes to relax before moving on to the next exercise.

Foam Rolling Your Upper Back

  1. Place the foam roller longways under your spine so that it runs along the length of your back.
  2. Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the ground in front of you.
  3. Spread your arms out to the side as if you are making a snow angel.
  4. Breath deeply into this position for up to 60 seconds.

Foam Rolling Your Neck

As discussed earlier, you never want to run the foam roller up and down your neck. Instead:

  1. Lay your head on the foam roller like it is a pillow.
  2. Gently turn your head slowly from side to side.

Foam Rolling Your Lower Back

  1. Place the foam roller sideways on the ground.
  2. Lay on the foam roller in a side-lying position.
  3. Gently run the foam roller up and down one side of your back, careful not to run it along the spine itself.
  4. Repeat on the opposite side.

Foam Rolling: Precautions

Though it is generally safe, you should always take caution when foam rolling your back, especially if you have recurrent back pain. Always speak with your healthcare provider before beginning any new exercise routine to avoid worsening your pain.

What If I Have Chronic Back Pain?

If you suffer from chronic back pain, foam rolling a few times a week may not be enough to alleviate your pain. Instead, schedule an appointment with The Spine Pro, Dr. Hooman Melamed. Dr. Melamed specializes in conservative care and minimally invasive spine surgery to help his patients get relief.

New patients can request a telehealth appointment with Dr. Melamed to begin their treatment journey today!