Foam rollers were designed to replace the need of light to deep tissue massages before and after a workout, and to relieve any muscular ailments which do not require the work of a certified professional. They lengthen muscles and relieve tight knots which sit deep in the muscle tissue to ensure a quick recovery, with a lower risk of experiencing DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) in the days following exercise.
Due to their rapid increase in popularity, foam rollers can now be found in almost any gym in almost every style.
There are 4 primary styles of foam rollers – and the one you choose to use depends on your pain threshold and target muscles.
1.) Low density foam rollers:
Low density foam rollers are the ideal type of foam roller for the beginner, or anyone who is experiencing severe muscular pain. The low density makes them soft enough to exert only a small amount of pressure on the sensitive muscle group.
Foam rolling has received a bad reputation because it can be painful. A low density foam roller can ensure a more pleasant experience which is not as painful as other variations.
2.) Firm/high density foam rollers:
High density foam rollers are on the opposite side of the spectrum to low density foam rollers. These foam rollers are very hard to sit on and exert a lot of pressure on the target muscles. These foam rollers are ideal for relieving knots and are often used by those more accustomed to foam rolling.
High density foam rollers can also be used directly after a workout, while the muscles are still warm, in order to get a deep tissue massage before the muscles contract and get sore.
There are varieties which range from low density to medium and high density, it is all about finding the right density for your preference.
3.) Short foam rollers:
Short foam rollers are available in low and high density and can be used to target specific areas with more control. Normal foam rollers are ideal when targeting large muscle groups and the smaller ones are able to get into the smaller muscle groups.
4.) Rough surface foam rollers:
This variation comes with a bumpy or indented surface which really gets deep into the muscles and targets pressure points in order to relieve tension.
Each variety has its own function and purpose. When it comes to relieving back pain, the source of the pain will determine which type of foam roller is used. Lower back pain should be relieved with a short foam roller with a density suitable for the individual.
The important thing to remember about relieving lower back pain is to not target the lower back directly. It is best to focus on the hip flexors, glutes, and the calves as the tightness of these muscles are responsible for lower back pain.
For upper back pain, a small rough surface foam roller is ideal as there are many small muscles in the upper back which are prone to getting tight and knotted. These bumpy foam rollers are also available in a tennis ball shape which are the most effective for targeting specific muscles and relieving tension in the upper back.