Rehabilitation & Recovery

5 Best Foam Roller Exercises For Lower Back Pain Relief

Foam roller exercises for lower back

Foam rolling is a great way to loosen up tense and knotted muscles helping to alleviate common conditions including lower back pain.  

In this article, we’ll suggest some of the best foam roller exercises for lower back.  


Recommended Reading – 4 Best Foam Shoulder Roller Exercises To Relieve Muscle Pain


Before that, let’s look into more detail about what foam rolling is and why you may find it beneficial.  

What is Foam Rolling?

Foam rolling is a self-myofascial release technique that involves using a foam roller to apply pressure to different parts of your body, such as your upper back.

It’s a form of deep tissue massage that can help to relieve muscle tension, improve your flexibility, and reduce the risk of injury.

When using a foam roller, you apply pressure to your muscle fibers and connective tissue.

This is sometimes referred to as myofascial rolling.  

lower back foam rolling

This pressure can help to break up knots and adhesions to muscles and soft tissue, which can be caused by overuse, injury, or poor posture.

By breaking up these knots and adhesions, you can improve blood flow to your muscles and help them to recover more quickly.

Foam rolling can also help to improve your range of motion.  

This can be especially beneficial if you have poor mobility and flexibility, or you like to engage in regular physical activity.

It’s worth noting that foam rolling can be uncomfortable, especially if you are new to it or if you have particularly tight muscles.  

However, it should never be painful.  

If you experience any intense pain while foam rolling, stop immediately and consult a certified personal trainer, or similar, for advice.  

Benefits Of Foam Roller Exercises

What Are The Benefits Of Foam Roller Exercises?

Foam roller exercises offer many benefits including alleviating muscle tension, improving mobility and decreasing pain.  

Here are some key advantages of incorporating foam roller exercises into your routine:

Improved Muscle Flexibility

Applying pressure to muscles and fascia (the connective tissue that surrounds your muscles) helps to release tension to any knotted muscles and trigger points.  

When done regularly, this can help to improve the extensibility of your muscles along with flexibility.  

Muscle Flexibility

Reduced Muscle Tension

When applying pressure to the muscle fibers with your foam roller, this can help break up adhesions and restore normal tissue function.  

This can help to reduce tension to tight and sore muscles.  

Enhanced Blood Flow 

Foam rolling can stimulate blood flow to the targeted muscles.

Improved circulation can aid in muscle recovery, reduce soreness, and promote healing.

Pain Relief

Foam rolling can help to alleviate minor aches and pains by promoting relaxation to tight muscles and increasing blood flow to the affected area.

Pain Relief

Improved Post-Workout Recovery

Incorporating foam roller exercises as part of your cool-down routine after workouts can aid in muscle recovery and reduce post-exercise soreness.  

This makes it beneficial for those of you who undertake regular strength training.  

Better Posture And Alignment

If you suffer from bad posture, foam rolling can assist in correcting muscle imbalances and promoting better posture by addressing areas of muscle tightness that sometimes contribute to poor alignment.

Stress Relief

The act of foam rolling can be relaxing and therapeutic, helping to reduce stress and promote a sense of well-being.

Whilst foam rolling is primarily known for its physical effects on muscles and fascia, its impact on stress relief is linked to various factors such as stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system and the release of endorphins.  

Stress Relief

Choosing the Right Foam Roller

When it comes to choosing the best foam roller for your lower back exercises, there are several things to consider.

The right foam roller can make a big difference in the effectiveness and comfort of your workout.  

Here are some things to keep in mind before choosing the right foam roller for you.  

Density

Foam rollers come in different densities, and this affects how firm they are. 

High-density foam rollers are the firmest and provide the most pressure, making them ideal for deep tissue massage and targeting specific areas.  

Conversely, low-density foam rollers are softer and don’t apply as much pressure.  

This tends to make them a good choice for beginners or those with sensitive areas.

Size

Foam rollers come in different sizes, including full-length and half-length options.

Full-length foam rollers are typically around 36 inches long and are best for exercises that require a larger surface area.

Half-length foam rollers are around 18 inches long and are more portable, making them a good choice for travel or smaller spaces.

Some brands also offer different diameters which typically range from 3 inches to 6 inches.  

The smaller diameter rollers tend to be better for a more targeted massage.  

However, if you want something that will work on most muscle groups, stick with the 5-6 inch diameter.  

Surface Pattern

You’ll notice that some foam rollers are smooth all the way around with some having small ‘nobbles’ all over the surface.  

If you’re new to foam rolling it may be a good idea to start with a smooth roller so you can get the hang of it.  

When you upgrade to a roller with the nobbles, you’ll find that it offers a much deeper massage technique when compared to the smooth surface roller.  

Lower Back Pain And Foam Rolling

If you’re one of the many people who experience low back pain, foam rolling may be an effective way to alleviate your symptoms.  

By using a foam roller on your lower back, you can target the muscles in your lumbar spine and surrounding areas.

When you foam roll your lower back muscles, you should focus on rolling slowly and deliberately over the area to be treated.  

You can also try using different foam rolling techniques, such as rolling back and forth or holding pressure on a specific point.

different foam rolling techniques

It’s common for those new to foam rolling their lower back, to simply lie directly on top of the foam roller and in doing so, they apply a significant amount of pressure to their lumbar spine.  

Remember, foam rollers are for muscles and not bones.  

Focus on working one side at a time by transferring your bodyweight, this way you can be sure to prevent directly rolling up and down your spine.  

It’s important to note that foam rolling is not a substitute for medical treatment.  

If you have severe or chronic lower back pain, you should consult a healthcare professional, such as a physical therapist, before trying any new exercises or treatments.

Foam Roller Exercises for Lower Back

When performing foam roller exercises for your lower back, it’s important to focus on both the right and left sides of your body.

This will help ensure that you’re targeting the specific area of your lower back that is causing discomfort.

Here are some foam roller exercises that can help alleviate lower back pain:

Upper Back Roll

The upper back roll will help to mobilize your upper back (the thoracic spine) and is a good exercise to start before moving on to the lower back exercises.  

It’s safe to foam roll your upper back (when compared to your lower back) as your shoulder blades and rib cage help to protect your upper and mid spine.

upper back roll

How To Do The Upper Back Roll:

  1. Place the roller on the ground and lie down.
  2. Ensure the roller is horizontal to your spine and place it just between your shoulder blades.  
  3. Clasp your hands behind your head and raise your hips off the ground. 
  4. Very slowly move up and down through your upper back down to the middle of your back. 
  5. Continue with this motion for around 60 seconds.  

Quadratus Lumborum Foam Roll

The quadratus lumborum muscles are deep set muscles located either side of your lumbar spine.  

These muscles help to stabilize and allow for movement of your spine and pelvis.  

By loosening up these muscles you can help to improve mobility to your lower back region. 

Quadratus Lumborum Foam Roll

How To Do The Quadratus Lumborum Roll:

  1. Lie down on your right side and position the roller directly above your right hip bone. 
  2. Bend your left leg and keep your right leg extended.  Your left foot should be flat on the floor. 
  3. Supporting your upper body with your right elbow, rotate your torso around 45 degrees towards the ceiling.  
  4. Use your right leg to gentle roll up and down.
  5. Continue doing this for around 60 seconds before switching to your left side.  

Hip Flexors Foam Roll 

Foam rolling your hip flexors can help to reduce tightness to your low back muscles.  

This is because your hip muscles and the fascia are interconnected with your lower back muscles and when you have a tightness to your hips this can contribute to lower back issues. 

Hip Flexors Foam Roll 

How To Do The Hip Flexor Foam Roll:

  1. Lie face down on the floor and position one end of the foam roller just beneath your left hip bone.  
  2. Support your upper body with your forearms and keep both legs extended.  
  3. From here roll up around a couple of inches and return back to the starting position.  
  4. Carry on moving up and down for about 60 seconds and then switch to work your right hip flexors.  

Glute Roll

Foam rolling your glutes can help to release tension, improve hip mobility, and provide relief to certain types of low back pain.

The glute muscles play a significant role in stabilizing your pelvis and lower back, and tension or imbalances to these muscles can result in pain to your lower back.

Glute Roll

How To Do The Glute Foam Roll:

  1. Start by sitting on the foam roller with your legs extended and a slight bend to your knees. 
  2. Place your hands behind you and flat on the ground for support. 
  3. Slowly roll up and down applying pressure to your glutes as you go. 
  4. If you prefer, you can focus on one side at a time by transferring your bodyweight on either side. 
  5. Continue rolling for 60 seconds.  

Hamstring Roll

Foam rolling your hamstrings can help release tension in these muscles, improve flexibility, and positively impact the overall posture and alignment of the pelvis and lumbar spine.

Hamstring Roll

How To Do The Hamstring Foam Roll:

  1. Place the foam roller under your right hamstring.
  2. Keep your right leg extended and off the floor and your left knee bent keeping the foot flat on the ground.  
  3. Place your right arm behind you and place your hand on the ground for support. 
  4. Ensure you keep your weight on your right leg. 
  5. Roll backwards and forwards for around 60 seconds before switching to work the opposite side.  

Final Thoughts

Foam rolling is certainly one of the best ways of alleviating tension and muscle soreness.  

To properly alleviate pain to your lower back it’s important to target the surrounding muscles.  

This is because they are interconnected, so if the tissue and fascia become tight this has a direct impact on your low back area. 

Whilst foam rolling offers numerous benefits, it’s key to use proper technique and gradually increase pressure and intensity.  

Overusing or using improper form could potentially cause discomfort or injury. 

Remember, if you have specific health concerns or are new to foam rolling, consider seeking guidance from a fitness professional or healthcare provider before incorporating foam roller exercises into your routine.

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