T Nation

Foam Rolling / Back Injury

Is it OK to use a foam roller on your back if you’ve had back injuries in the past?

I’ve had two back injuries - one in my lower back, one at the base of my neck. The lower back one, I haven’t had any issues with since last year, the neck one still gives me a stiff neck as it was only a few months ago I had the injury.

Could I use a foam roller on my back?

As far as I know you should only use a roller on the thoracic spine, not the lumbar.

Perhaps one shouldn’t foam roll during acute injury.
Tony Gentilcore’s article does have a caution re. using tennis balls for soft tissue work on the back but, other than that, I haven’t noted any contraindications for foam rolling.
Check out Cressey, Robertson and Boyle’s articles.

Sorry, I have to correct myself. Just found this.

bretc wrote:

I apologize if this question has been asked already. I read the last 10 pages of this thread and didn’t find it, so here it goes:

In your article, “Feel Better for 10 Bucks,” you stated that SMR on the foam roller will reduce adhesion and scar tissue accumulation and will help improve the tone of the muscle.

Recently, I have seen that you and Mike have been recommending not foam rolling the lumbar erectors. I believe that your contention is that the hips should be trained for mobility and the lumbar spine for stability.

Does foam rolling the lumbar spine lead to hypermobility of the lumbar spine? I thought it just improved the tone by ridding scar tissue and adhesions, thereby paving the way for improved flexibility if one chose to perform static or dynamic stretches.

If one simply rolled the lumbar spine on a foam roller without performing flexibility or mobility work, would it contribute toward leading to hypermobility of the lumbar spine and should therefore be avoided, or would it simply release tension, improve blood flow and neuromuscular function and keep the muscles healthy and should therefore be encouraged?

Shouldn’t one foam roll any soft-tissue structure that takes a beating from most lifts such as the lumbar erectors?

Thanks for your time Eric!


Yes, it would help the soft tissue quality, but the contribution to hypermobility combined with the fact that there isn’t a lot of muscle mass down there in most people makes it unsafe, in my opinion.

If you look at the most advanced lifters, they have a lot of hypertrophy in the mid-thoracic erectors - where any sort of flexion can occur more safely under load (a protective adaptation that goes along with being experienced).

If you look at the best lifters, they still tend to be pretty thin in the lumbar erectors; they aren’t buttressing shear stress as much there, as they know not to flex there in the first place.