Best 5 Foam Roller Exercises for Back Pain
Back pain is a prevalent issue that affects people of all ages and walks of life. Multiple factors, including a sedentary lifestyle, muscle weakness, and overuse injuries can contribute to this condition. Although there are numerous methods for managing back pain, foam roller exercises can be an especially effective method for relieving discomfort and enhancing mobility.
A foam roller is a cylindrical piece of foam that can be used for myofascial release and self-massage. Myofascial release is a technique that involves applying pressure to tight or painful areas of the body in order to alleviate tension and increase range of motion. Back muscles, such as the erector spinae, latissimus dorsi, and thoracic spine, are frequently targeted with foam rollers. There’s been much debate in the physiotherapy community about the actual versus perceived benefits of foam rolling. There are questions around the actual benefit but there does seem to be a strong consensus by those who foam roll that they get therapeutic benefit.
Patients often ask us at Surrey Physio, what size foam roller should I lie on? There are many sizes but typical diameters are 10cm (4-inch) or 15cm (6-inch). The wider the foam roller, the stronger the exercise. Narrower foam rollers are gentler and more comfortable. Start with the narrow 10cm width roller first.
Foam roller exercises used for back pain focus around two main goals: mobility and extension. With our rounded and sedentary postures, we often get stiff through our backs. By lying on a foam roller, we can encourage extension and mobility to the thoracic (upper) spine and lumbar (lower) spine.
Let’s look at Surrey Physio’s Top 5 Exercises:
1. Foam Roller Lumbar Extension
Lay a 4-inch (10cm) diameter foam roller on the floor. Lie on the roller by placing the curve of your lower back on the roller. Bend your knees. Relax and feel the roller press into the arch of your lower back. This exercise helps to maintain your natural lower back curve (known as the lumbar lordosis) and can also improve mobility in your lower back. Hold this position for one minute and repeat three times.
2. Foam Roller Thoracic Extension Gentle
Lay a 4 inch (10cm) diameter foam roller on the floor. Lie on the roller by placing your upper back on the roller. The position you use can vary but around the shoulder blades is usually one of the best places. Bend your knees. Relax and feel the roller press into your back. This exercise helps to maintain good posture and can also improve mobility in your back. Hold this position for one minute and repeat three times.
3. Foam Roller Thread the Needle Thoracic Rotation
Go onto all fours on the floor, and place a foam roller to the side of your arm. Place the back of your hand of your opposite arm on roller, between your other arm and thigh. Contract your deep abdominal muscles by drawing the belly button towards the spine. Glide the roller away from the body as you rotate your spine. This exercise improves mobility in your spine. Repeat three sets of five repetitions each side.
4. Foam Roller Lumbar Extension Mobilisation 6-Inch (15cm)
Lay a 6-inch (15cm) diameter foam roller on the floor. Lie on the roller by placing the curve of your lower back on the roller. Bend your knees. Roll upwards and downwards ten times on the roller. This exercise helps to maintain your natural lower back curve (known as a lumbar Hyperlordosis), and also improves mobility in your lower back. This is a tough exercise, and if you find this exercise too strong, use a 4-inch (10cm) diameter foam roller.
5. Foam Roller Lumbar Extension Mobilisation
Lay a 4-inch (10cm) diameter foam roller on the floor. Lie on the roller by placing the curve of your lower back on the roller. Bend your knees. Roll upwards and downwards ten times on the roller. This exercise helps to maintain your natural lower back curve (known as a lumbar lordosis), and also improves mobility in your lower back.
At Surrey Physio, we often use foam roller exercises to improve mobility and extension to the spine. Our physios here can guide you on the best exercises for you. We can also help you with correct technique, and guide you on the most appropriate size for the roller.
(If you are a patient needing treatment for back pain, call Surrey Physio to book a telephone/video consultation with one of our expert physios or osteopaths, or book in face-to-face for an appointment. You can call us on 0208 685 6930 or book online by clicking the link at the top of the page.
Therapists reading this page, check out the brilliant exercise tool Rehab My Patient – the best exercise prescription software for osteopaths, physios and sports therapists to prescribe exercises www.rehabmypatient.com).