Releasing tension from the body is one of the most satisfying feelings, especially if you’ve been in pain. Foam rollers are this year’s go-to device to achieve just that, serving the needs of back pain sufferers and exercise enthusiasts alike. It is an ideal tool for using in your early-morning or post-workout stretch routine.

What are foam rollers?
Foam rollers are densely packed foam cylinders.  A cost-effective standard model with a smooth surface is reliable for providing you with the benefits of massage, including increased mobility and relaxation. Some users prefer foam rollers with grooved surface to enhance their trigger point release capability.

How do I know which foam roller to buy?
Foam rollers come in a wide variety of sizes and styles. Beginners will undoubtedly prefer to start with a smooth roller made from comparatively soft foam, such as the BadBacks foam rollers. The wider the roller, the easier they are to balance on. If your intention is to target stability, look for a narrow foam roller to increase the challenge to your core.

When you are shopping for a foam roller, consider where on the body you are likely to use it. If you have back pain, a roller with a wide diameter is suitable because you will use it against large muscle groups. However, if you would like to pinpoint a particular muscle or knot there are small version available, such as the Togu Blackroll Mini. Smaller rollers are also a lot more practical because they are easier to store away in the cupboard or pack in your luggage when you want to take them away with you.  

While foam rollers relieve pain, they tend to hurt in the first few weeks while your body adjusts to the pressure. Because of this, we recommend experienced users upgrade to textured or grooved foam rollers only when they are ready for a stronger massage sensation.

How do I use a foam roller?
The foam roller is easy to incorporate into a stretch routine. To use one, put it under the target area of the body and slide back and forth over the roller. The body weight and friction unknot and release tension between the muscles and fascia promoting mobility and a feeling of restoration.

Hip release
This exercise is great for people who spend long hours sitting and want to revive the hip area.

  • Adopt the plank position, keeping your hands directly beneath your shoulders.
  • Lower your body until the left hip rests on the foam roller.
  • The right hip should have nothing underneath it. Bend the right leg and rest it on the floor for balance.
  • Begin the workout by sliding up and down the roller on your left hip. Maintain a gentle, slow pace. If you are in pain, pause, and resume when you are ready.
  • Resist the urge to tense the muscles as you roll over them. Breathe deeply and relax.  
  • As you roll, keep the left leg lifted and straight as you can.
  • Keep the motion going for 30 seconds in week 1, 60 seconds in week 2, 90 seconds in week 3 and 120 seconds in week 4.
  • Once the left hip is done, repeat again on the opposite side.

Back restoration
This exercise is a massage and relaxation technique for easing tension.

  • Start by sitting on top of the foam roller with your legs outstretched.
  • Slowly bring yourself to the floor with your lower back on the roller by simply reclining as you move your legs forward.
  • With your legs bent, and the foam roller under the base of your spine, walk forwards and backwards so the roller reaches your shoulder blades, then back the other way.
  • Keep the pace soft and slow to massage and release tension across the length of your back.
  • Remember to engage your core muscles by pulling your belly button to your spine for stability, strength and safety.
  • Keep the motion going for 30 seconds in week 1, 60 seconds in week 2, 90 seconds in week 3 and 120 seconds in week 4.

For more inspiration to begin building up a foam roller routine, check out some of these youtube videos:

Can I target back pain?
You can use a foam roller to target back pain. Because the musculoskeletal system is strongly interconnected, the fact that you feel pain in one region, doesn’t necessarily mean its the source of the problem. This means to target the source of the pain, rather than the symptom of the pain, you might need to check in first with a physio or medical professional. One set of exercises will not suit every body, but in a spirit of exploration you can find the techniques that work for you.