When it comes to your lower torso, the abs tend to get the lion’s share of the attention, for obvious reasons: six packs look really cool and they’re really easy to see in the mirror. Which is kind of a shame, because an underdeveloped lower back can lead to some serious issues, including but not limited to back pain.
A sweet six pack won’t help you much if your lower torso isn’t balanced.
There are tons of great exercises you can do for your lower back. However, when you have pain or soreness that just won’t go away, a foam roller is a fantastic solution that is rapidly being adopted by the fitness community. Foam rollers work through myofascial release, causing tense muscles to relax and improving blood flow. Foam rollers have lots of great uses besides easing lower back pain; they’re also great for your hamstrings, quads and lats. However, if you’re like most users, then you’ll probably find yourself “rolling” your lower back most often. There are a lot of foam rollers on the market, but I would recommend starting your search with the great foam rollers listed below.
1. The Grid, by Trigger Point Performance
The Grid is among the most versatile foam rollers you’ll find, with a variety of densities on each roller. The Grid wraps the foam covering around a hard plastic shell to improve the durability of the product and decrease the weight. I would recommend The Grid for beginners since it has the most gentle surface of the products listed here. It comes in three different sizes, with the 26″ being the best for lower back rolling and the 13″ recommended if you’re more interested in leg rolling.
2. j/fit Deluxe Myo Body Roller
The Deluxe Myo Body Roller is 100% foam and a great option if you’re looking for something a little bigger, measuring in at 36″. It features distinctive bumps on the surface that are specially designed to release pressure in your muscles without bruising. Although no foam roller is going to be “comfortable” to use, you may find the Deluxe Myo Body Roller to be a bit more challenging that The Grid. Thus I would recommend it more for people that think they’re pretty tough or have some experience with foam rolling.
3. TheraGrid Muscle Foam Roller
The TheraGrid Muscle Foam Roller is similar in intensity to the Myo Body Roller above, with raised bumps that you’ll definitely feel without being agonizing. The Muscle Foam Roller only comes in the 13″ size, which makes it fairly portable. Similar to The Grid, it features varying levels of bumpiness so you can control the intensity of the roll.
4. RumbleRoller Deep-Tissue Massage Roller
If your idea of a good time is mountain climbing or driving through a car wash with the top down, then your search for a foam roller will end with the RumbleRoller Deep-Tissue Massage Roller. The spiky massage points on the Deep-Tissue Massage Roller are designed to do exactly what they claim, and you’ll soon find your muscles releasing their darkest secrets into your nervous system. I would be hesitant to recommend this product to beginners, as you’ve probably noticed. However, if you’ve tried other foam rollers and they just don’t cut it, then look no further. The Deep-Tissue Massage Roller conveniently comes in a variety of sizes and colors, so you’ll be able to pick exactly which torture device your heart desires.
As always, take care when using these products. Proper technique is extremely important, and care should be taken to concentrate on the lower back muscles as opposed to the spine. It will not be a fun experience at first, but that doesn’t mean you should always push through the discomfort. Serious pain may be a sign of a serious problem, such as a herniated disc or a strained muscle. In that case, you’ll want to step away from the foam roller and consult a professional. With that said, foam rollers offer excellent health benefits to those with stiffness and pain. For further reading, check out books like “The MELT Method” by Sue Hitzmann.