Before I delve into how we can help you reduce your back pain, I want you to understand WHY this works! It’s very easy for me to just tell you to do it, but the why is much more important in terms of you actually doing it over the long term!
So let’s start with what foam rolling is. Foam rolling is a form of self myofascial release (SMR). This is a form of stretching whereby you release a muscles’ tension, through gentle pressure on the knots and stiff areas. Foam rolling essentially gives you the opportunity to apply the pressure to yourself, so think of it as a self massage!
When foam rolling, we focus on targeting the neural and muscular system which has adhesions/ knots, which are referred to as trigger points. These trigger points are the painful spots we feel when foam rolling. Alleviating these adhesions will restore optimal muscular function and motion.
Another system which we focus on when rolling is known as the fascial system. Imagine this being a connected net, that supports our muscular system and connects everything together. We have specific fascial sites which congregate around focal areas such as our shoulder, lower back, upper bum and also around the knee. All of these places are susceptible to injury and pain, through the fascia bundling up and becoming tight. A way to ensure this doesn’t happen is through…
YEP you guessed it SMR!!
Let’s take a look at these 4 foam rolling exercises to reduce lower back pain.
- Thoracic Spine. This is the name given to our upper back mainly around our shoulder blades. This will feel like it’s tight by rounding of the shoulders whilst sitting down. But by rolling this areas we can feel which muscles we need to work more for a better posture. Do not roll the lower back, stay at the top portion of your spine.
- Hip Flexors and TFL. Hip flexors are a group of muscles which connect from the top of our pelvic bone onto our thigh. These can become super tight through prolonged sitting and can cause back pain by changing the position of the pelvis. The TFL (tensor fascia latae) is a small muscle located in the pocket area of your trousers. Again when this is tight, it can cause the pelvis to tilt forward and put a lot of stress through the lower back. Take your time when rolling this area, and tilt your pelvis to either side when rolling, to really open up the area.
- Piriformis. The piriformis is located at the top of your bum and directly below the Pelvic bone. Again when this is tight, it can cause tremendous stress on the hip joint but also sciatic nerve. To advance your ability to roll in this area, you can use a hard sports ball.
- Quadratus Lumborum (QL). The QL is a small muscle with a big job! It stabilises the lumbar spine. When tight it can cause pain, but a major issue of this is that, if one is tight, the other one will become over active. This will then cause them both to be painful! This is a relatively small movement.
- Pigeon stretch. This is bonus material! Although foam rolling is fantastic we want to allow some extensive stretching to occur through muscles. Specifically this targets the piriformis, as we know it’s a problem muscle so doing both SMR and stretching, will be incredibly effective for optimal function!
You may be wondering why we haven’t really targeted the low back. There is only one exercise that goes close, the QL exercise. Well you see, often where the pain is is not where the problem is. Low back pain is often caused by tightness, weakness or discrepancies in other areas of the body. So we fix those first which often release the issues causing pain. Hence why we hit below the pain, tareting the hips, and above the pain targeting the thoracic spine. There are lots more exercises, releases and stretches that can be done, but these are a good place to start.
If you don’t have a foam roller at home, then I highly recommend you grab one. Our favourite is The Grid Foam Roller from Trigger Point Performance. You can grab one on Amazon (at the time of writing this, they have a great deal on them), just click here.