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If you haven't used one yourself, you've probably at least seen a foam roller at your local gym, fitness center, or physical therapist's office. A standard foam roller is a dense piece of foam that ranges anywhere from soft and pliable to dense and rigid for muscle massage and trigger release therapy. Some foam rollers are uniform, while others come with ridges and grids to effectively work out knots, kinks, and general tightness.
Foam rollers for backs are a bit different. For starters, they're designed with the sensitive spine area in mind. Some rollers have a designated center channel that provides pressure to the surrounding area while keeping the spine protected. Other rollers are simply easier on the back with their grid-like design.
Foam rollers are generally safe for the upper back and shoulders, while others also cater to the lower back, and even the entire spine. If you're using a foam roller on your back for the first time, it's a good idea to start slow then gradually build up a level of pressure you can tolerate.
In addition to the level of spinal protection and support for the back, there are some other characteristics that helped us pick the best foam rollers for backs listed below. Some rollers stand out for their portability, which is a must for a busy lifestyle. You'll want a foam roller with sufficient coverage on the back and shoulders, yet is compact and light enough to take to the gym or stash in a suitcase. Other rollers are soft and gentle enough for beginners or even those with sensitive backs. If you're just starting out, it's a good idea to slowly build up your tolerance.
If you're struggling with back pain and tightness and are eager to get some relief in the comfort of your own home, this foam roller is worth a close look. While it's not the cheapest out there, the Muuvsport Stealth Align Foam Roller efficient design, attention to detail and effective deep tissue back massage makes it a worthwhile investment.
When you first lay eyes on the foam roller, you'll probably be struck by its unusual appearance. Not only is it a bit taller than most other rollers, but it also has a distinctive center channel, which keeps the spine cradled and protected when rolling. This foam roller measures 24 inches long.
Stability is crucial, especially when rolling a delicate area such as the spine. According to Muuvsport, this roller is stable enough for isolating specific areas of the back without losing your balance. You can also safely place your elbows down on either side for even more control over the amount of pressure that's being applied.
The spinal channel supports the spine without compromising the deep tissue massage. Aside from the spine, the spinal channel can also be used on the calves and other areas. Despite the unique design, the roller still provides full contact with your shoulders if you need to roll them out.
Raised diamonds along the channel provide a deep tissue back massage, which is perhaps the biggest benefit among those who suffer from back pain. As one reviewer observes, the larger size of the roller makes it easy to roll out the whole back in a "simple, stable, straight roll without twisting my upper body." Some rollers are a bit awkward to use, but the larger wheels found on this roller allow you to maintain your natural form as you roll out your back.
Another shopper comments that after loosening up the muscles and tissue, "I place my spine between the center wheels and begin to roll and literally feel (and hear) my spine aligning."
While its larger size allows for full back coverage as you roll, it can also make it tough to carry the roller around when you travel. Many dedicated owners like this roller so much that they are eager for Muuvsport to make one that's smaller and more portable for traveling.
On the other hand, the larger size of the roller makes it easy to work in longer motions, according to one editor's review. Another advantage is that you can consistently apply deeper pressure for more effective relief. You can also modify the wheels to match the width of your spine for more effective rolling on the back, notes the same reviewer.
Pros: Protective spine channel, ideal for deep tissue spine massage, plenty of stability
Cons: Not compact enough for travel, a bit pricey, only available in one size
You'll find the TriggerPoint CORE foam roller in three sizes. The smallest 12-inch one is just the right size for traveling and bringing to the gym. Despite its small size, even the 12-inch roller will work for most muscle groups. If you're looking for a larger roller with more stability for a home gym, the 36-inch roller is a safe bet. The 18-inch version falls somewhere in between.
Regardless of which size you select, you'll get the same amount of support and stability. The multi-density core tends to be more durable than rollers made with polypropylene, which may start to lose its shape and break down over time.
Some rollers are firm and rigid, while others are softer, making them best for beginners and those who prefer lighter foam rolling sessions. The CORE roller is dense enough to massage tight muscles and knots. You can even use it to work out kinks and improve soreness.
This roller "has just enough give to make you want to keep using it but enough bite to feel it work," according to one satisfied Amazon shopper. Another buyer found that the larger size is plenty if you want to work out your entire back in one rolling session.
The TriggerPoint CORE roller stands out as a value pick for its versatility and features for the price. Despite its rigid high density foam core, which keeps the roller from losing its shape over time, the CORE roller is designed for moderate compression.
According to TriggerPoint, this foam roller is soft enough for beginners as well as anyone who prefers mid-level compression. You can use the roller to manage a variety of aches and pains throughout the body. The manufacturer also states that the roller's multi-density pattern helps boost circulation and mobility.
Pros: Solid EVA foam core, maintains shape over time, offers moderate compression
Cons: Compression may be too light for those who want a deep tissue massage, some beginners find it too painful, largest roller can feel a bit bulky and awkward for certain parts of the body
Foam rolling can be intimidating, especially if the first thing that comes to mind is a rigid roller with painful trigger points. The ProSource Flex Foam Roller provides a dense yet forgiving foam structure with moderate pressure.
If you're just starting out foam rolling, you can go as slowly and gently as you want. Once you're able to build up confidence, you can apply a bit more pressure. Half-round rollers are available for the gentlest foam rolling sessions. The half-round rollers come in 12-inch and 36-inch varieties. Full rollers are also available, in sizes ranging from 12 to 36 inches.
Both the half and full-size rollers are useful for self-massage, including myofascial release. The rollers work by boosting blood circulation, which in turn leads to a greater range of motion. You can also use the roller to boost coordination, as well as improve your core strength and balance.
Many fans of this foam roller tout its benefits when it comes to relieving muscle tightness and even rehab. "I'm amazed at how a simple foam roller allows me to work out muscle tightness and knots that previously required the skills of a neuromuscular therapist," comments one reviewer. Some gym-goers use their roller before and after a workout for maximum results.
As a beginner, you might find that the half roller is the right initial investment. However, as you progress, you may need more pressure. The full rollers are ideal for intermediate users, down to their firm EPE foam construction. While it's not quite as rigid as some of the other rollers, this ProsourceFit foam roller is firm enough for a variety of stretches, as well as physical therapy, Pilates, core stabilization, muscle massage and more.
According to Prosource, you can use one or two rollers for various seated and standing exercises, and to improve balance.
Pros: Ideal for beginners, affordable, comes in several sizes and variations
Cons: May not be firm enough for more advanced users, some say it starts to sag after many uses, can slide on some floor surfaces
When I bought my first foam roller years ago, I assumed the 36-inch roller would be all that I needed. However, I soon found myself wishing for something smaller and more compact when traveling.
Whether you're a frequent flier searching for a compact roller that easily fits into your luggage or you just want a portable foam roller when the need arises, this Rollga roller is just 18 inches, making it highly portable. Don't be fooled by its smaller size, though, because there's still plenty of surface area to cover your back, shoulders, legs and more.
The Rollga Foam Roller PRO helps fill a glaring void in the world of foam rollers. Instead of delivering results via one uniform piece of foam, this roller is designed with hard contours for maximum effectiveness. It's also equipped with a spine alignment zone, which keeps bones protected without compromising performance when it comes to workout out knots, kinks, soreness and more in your back.
Because the shape isn't uniform, the roller "creates a sense of fascial separation when rolling, like being kneaded..." one reviewer wrote. The result can be more efficient and less time-consuming rolling sessions. Aside from the spine, the grooves can effectively work the outsides of the legs, another reviewer observed.
Whether you're a beginner looking for your first roller or are concerned about the density, Rollga breaks down its roller density levels with a handy chart. While the softest rollers are ideal for sensitive muscles and new foam roller users, the Rollga Pro is designed with a sports massage-level density that's best suited for advanced users.
Rollga also notes that the hard surface of the Pro means that it won't soften over time, unlike other Rollga rollers, which can lose up to 10% of their density over time.
Pros: Compact enough for travel, hard contours provide more effective results, center channel keeps spine protected
Cons: A bit pricey, may be too firm for beginners; only comes in one size
If you've never ventured into the world of vibrating foam rollers, you may want to consider trying out one of these handy tools. In addition to the standard benefits of a foam roller, the various massaging levels help relieve muscle soreness, tightness and more in just a short period of time.
Many rollers, such as the URBNFit Vibrating Foam Roller, offer a range of low to high-intensity settings. If you're just getting used to the roller or don't need much vibration, the lowest level should be sufficient. However, if you're looking for maximum relief, you might want to crank it up to the high-intensity settings. This roller has both low and high settings, as well as several in between. There are five total vibration modes.
Some rollers offer little more than a switch to change vibration speeds and settings. Each intensity level is clearly marked on the side of this foam roller. For example, you can start with the lowest level 900 RPMs, or crank it up to the highest-level 3600 RPM. For a bit more variety, choose the fifth setting, which switches between the various levels every few seconds.
If you're working on your upper or lower back, you may want to stick with one of the lowest vibration settings. The roller "has multiple speeds to ensure the right accuracy of balanced pressure to soothe out your back problems," according to one reviewer.
At 13 inches long and more than five inches in diameter, the roller is compact enough to take with you to the gym. However, it's large enough to cover a wide surface area, such as the back and shoulders. Depending on your specific needs, you may select the lowest vibration setting for a gentle massage, or increase power to one of the more powerful settings.
In addition to the upper and lower back, the roller is designed for the shoulders, calves, hips, arms, and more. According to the URBNFit website, you can even place the roller against the wall for more effective results. Customized grooves provide more customized results.
Pros: Five vibration settings, ideal for upper and lower back, intensity levels marked on side of roller
Cons: Slightly heavy, highest setting could be too intense for some, only available in one size
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