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Updated: Feb 1, 2022

foam rolling & back pain

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Low back pain is something that most of us must deal with at one time or another. It is estimated that up to 80% of the population will deal with back pain at one point or another.

There are many reasons that we may experience low back pain, but there are some that I consistently see show up when treating my patients and one of the most significant of these is tightness of the glutes. This tightness is present in most back pain patients I work with.

This is because they share a connection through the soft tissue called fascia. Fascia is a type of connective tissue that surrounds every muscle and organ in our body. It provides support and reduces friction around the structures they enclose. Think of the white tissue coating on that chicken breast you cook for dinner and that is it.

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The fascia that is in the low back is attached to the fascia in the glutes. Therefore, when the glute muscle fibers become tight, they pull on the glute fascia. This in turn, pulls on the fascia of the lower back and contributes to back pain.

Loosening up the fibers of the glute muscle reduces the tension in the fascia of the glutes and subsequently, the tension in the low back. Less tension=less low back pain.

The glutes are deep, thickly fibered muscles and sometimes stretching is not enough to loosen them up. This is where foam rolling comes in. Foam rolling allows you to get deeper into the muscle fibers that have become “sticky” and tight and allow you to release them. This allows them to elongate and stretch back out.

As I said above, when the muscle fibers loosen up, so does the fascia. Foam rolling followed by glute stretching can be remarkably effective in relieving this tightness.

This video demonstrates how to use foam rolling to release tightness in the glutes in order to decrease low back pain:

Now that you have rolled your glutes (I am sure you found some good hot spots!) you want to add some stretching. A seated piriformis stretch is a good place to start, and this video shows you how to do this:

You want to roll about 3 times a week, as rolling too frequently can make you more sore, so stick to three times per week. I really like this foam roller (just below) because it has quality padding to make rolling more comfortable than a harder foam roll.

The glute stretching can be done daily to reduce your low back pain.

After you have loosened up your glutes and your back is feeling better, then you can consider some glute strengthening. Get some great glute strengthening exercises in my Resources page (they are free!)-sign up to get access here.

Give pairing up these two techniques a go to relieve your back pain and start feeling better sooner. Happy Rolling!

Stay Well & Feel Good,

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Always consult your physician before beginning any exercise program. This general information is not intended to diagnose any medical condition or to replace your healthcare professional. Consult with your healthcare professional to design an appropriate exercise prescription. If you experience any pain or difficulty with these exercises, stop and consult your healthcare provider.

Dr. Kim Day-MacDonald, physical therapist

Hi! I am Dr. Kim MacDonald. I am a physical therapist who specializes in empowering my patients to optimize how they move their bodies and improve their ability to do the things they love regardless of age, experience, or capabilities.

My experience in the health care field allows me to teach the tools you need to ensure that you are working safely to improve your pain and maximize your physical potential.

If you would like to know more about how you can help yourself be healthier and live a more active lifestyle, join me here. Sign up to stay updated on new info, tips, and resources.

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If you are having back pain or sciatica and cannot get relief, check out my quick Soothe Your Spine video course on what you should be doing to reduce your pain

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