Why You Should NEVER Foam Roll Your Back

Foam rolling—it’s one of the cheapest and most effective deep tissue massages you can get. Ask any fitness professional what you should be doing to enhance your recovery time, flexibility or mobility, and they will tell you to live on the foam roller. It’s cheap, it’s easy and it’s hard to screw up.

How Foam Rolling Works

Foam rolling works a lot like a regular deep tissue massage. The weight of your body on the roller compresses the muscle tissue, lengthens it and irons out the clumps of trigger points and bound up fascia.

With a little creativity and know-how, you can roll pretty much every part of your body and gain a significant, lasting connective tissue release. Use a big roller to ease your quads and IT band. Use a tennis ball for your feet. Use two tennis balls in a sock to release your calves.

But there is one place you should never roll out… your spine. Here’s why.

Physiotherapy exercise

Why Foam Rolling Your Spine is Risky Business

Wait, I see people at the gym put rollers on their spines all the time, and they seem fine! Are they all wrong? Yes and no. You can use a foam roller on your spine, but actually rolling the spine is a bad idea.

Generally, it’s not a good idea to roll out your boney areas in general. Since there is no tissue to lengthen, bones only get bruised from rolling (and nobody wants that). But the spine is a particularly risky area to roll. Not only are there all the delicate spinous prominences, but the motion of rolling your spine could jam your vertebrae and fascia against each other, leading to inflammation of the nerves and discs, tenderness and less mobility in your column.

You have a lot of really important wiring and circuitry going through your spinal column. You generally want to avoid irritating it, pushing on it or weakening it in any way. Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t lay on a foam roll to stretch out your spine. It’s just not a good idea to roll along it, up and down. It’s too irritating.

If you have tightness in your back that you want to roll out, use a ball instead. This is a more targeted approach to release trigger points or lengthen the muscle fibers, and it also avoids the spine in the process. Alternatively, you could lie lengthwise with your spine on a foam roller, extend your arms open, and breathe. Sometimes spinal discomfort needs a little less active release and more mindful TLC.

Regardless of what fitness fanatics may say, foam rolling your body into oblivion isn’t always the answer. Be gentle with your spine.

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40 comments

Chad A
Chad Anderson3 days ago

Thank you.

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heather g
heather g16 days ago

Makes sense.

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Danuta W
Danuta W18 days ago

thank you for sharing

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Sandra V
Sandra V18 days ago

Thanks

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Sandra V
Sandra V18 days ago

Thanks

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Paulo R
Paulo R19 days ago

ty

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Val Pla
Val Pla19 days ago

ok

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Val Pla
Val Pla19 days ago

ok

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hELEN hEARFIELD
hELEN hEARFIELD26 days ago

tyfs

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Dr. Jan Hill
Dr. Jan Hillabout a month ago

thanks

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