Is it safe to foam roll the lumbar spine?

Utilizing a foam roller on the lumbar region is not the best strategy for self-myofascial release. The average foam roller is 5" in diameter, and will increase the lordosis in the lumbar region. The excessive lordotic position will increase the pressure on the vertebrae and discs. 

Dependent on your starting position, there are more efficient tools for self myofascial release. In the upright position, the stick from RPI Intracell is a great choice. In the supine position a common tennis ball, or trigger ball from TP Therapy can be utilized. 

It is important to remember a tool is just a tool. Ensure that you apply just the right amount of pressure for you. A great strategy is to hire a professional coach to understand the principles, strategies, and techniques to optimize your self-myofascial release program.

Denise Chranowski
Integrative Medicine
Yes it is very safe and I just finished rolling out myself! We recommend foam rollers to most of our patients. Of course if you have very little mobility, are obese, are already in a lot of pain, having someone trained in using the foam roller to guide you is best.
Dr. Mike Clark, DPT
It is not recommended to foam roll the lumbar spine because the diameter of the foam roller makes it difficult for most individuals to control the position of their lower back. This can create excessive pressure on the vertebrae and the discs that separate them. With that said, the muscles in the lower back region can benefit greatly from myofascial release (which is the self-massage technique often referred to as foam rolling). Instead of the foam roller, you can use a smaller diameter tool such as a tennis ball to apply pressure to any areas with increased tension or discomfort.

No, the lumbar spine is an area that should be avoided when foam rolling. Foam rolling should be applied on areas with fairly dense muscle tissue such as the quadriceps, hamstrings, or inner thighs. Foam rolling on the lumbar spine can cause potential injury to the discs of the low back. Other devices (such as hand-held rollers) are more suitable because the amount of pressure applied is much less and won't harm the discs in your low back.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.