Massage rollers are inexpensive, effective tools that reduce muscle pain.
They’re also the ultimate “sleeper product” when it comes to massage for back pain.
Marketing for other forms of massage therapy abound. A glamorous trip to the day spa, hours under the care of a qualified local therapist, massage chairs, massage cushions, and even home massage machines are promoted more than rollers.
Body builders, elite athletes, and CEOs around the world swear by the effectiveness of massage for relieving aches, pains, and stress. But with a quality massage roller you can enjoy the benefits of massage for life – at a tiny fraction of the price.
Today I’ll share exactly what a massage roller is, what you should look for in one, and offer my recommendation for the best massage roller we’ve tested yet at the Healthy Back Institute.
What is a massage roller?
Massage rollers look like oversized foam-covered tubes. They come in smooth or bumpy textures and need to be strong enough to work with your body weight when used as back massage rollers and large muscle massagers.
The technology behind massage rollers is simple. By moving your body back and forth over the roller, you put your own weight to work as pressure to loosen up tight muscles and treat myofascial tension. The effect is similar to a kneading or deep tissue massage, but you’re in complete control since you control your body movements while using the roller.
Why use a massage roller?
“It helps stiff muscles relax and breaks down scar tissue, and improves your range of motion,” Mike Robertson, M.S., C.S.C.S., co-owner of Indianapolis Fitness and Sports Training told Men’s Health.
Research backs that up too. One recent study published in the International Journal of Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork found using massage rollers for self-care increases healing and mobility while reducing pain in patients who have undergone ACL or knee replacement surgery.
Of course, one of the best reasons to use massage rollers for pain relief is you’re not taking drugs, so you don’t have to deal with dangerous drug side effects. In fact, the #1 side effect of massage rollers is a little muscle soreness — the same soreness you’d get after an intense massage session from a practitioner skilled in myofascial release.
Massage rollers can be very time effective treatments for pain, too. A session with a massage roller might last two or three minutes. That’s it. You feel the results fast because you target one specific area at a time. As a result, back massage rollers can provide pain relief in under 5 minutes vs. 60 minutes or more for a traditional massage with a therapist. You can loosen up tight hamstrings, quads, calves and even your IT Band in minutes after a long day, or start your morning with a massage treat to loosen up your major muscle groups.
For many pain sufferers, one of the key reasons to go with a massage roller is cost. Massage rollers are a one-time investment in unlimited self-care — as opposed to paying over and over to see a chiropractor, physical therapist, or massage therapist. Thousands of dollars vs. less than $100 for a great at-home experience that will last for years? That’s an easy choice for many.
How to use a massage roller
Using a massage roller is simple — you’ll figure it out in under a minute on your own, but here’s my “official” set of general instructions:
- Choose the part of your body you want to massage
- Place the massager under that body part
- Roll your body over the massager along those muscles, using your body weight to break up muscle pain
- Drink a glass of water to help flush away the trapped toxins that come out of your muscles when you break up muscle knots and stimulate your natural circulation with the massage
What to look for in a good massage roller
A good massage roller can be a life-long friend for your muscles … if you choose correctly. You want to be sure you get a massager made from the sturdy materials and molded into the right shape to give you the best results.
Massage rollers are inexpensive, but if you buy a super-cheap model that falls apart or loses its shape after a handful of uses, you’re not really getting much value from your investment. That’s probably the #1 complaint about massage rollers – and they’re usually from customers who buy the cheapest roller in the store.
You want something strong and firm pushing back against your muscles as you roll, especially in rollers designed to be used as back massage rollers since most of your body weight will be pushing on the roller during your session. Look for high-quality foam that’s not overly porous in a sturdy tube form.
Next, carefully consider the shape. Many basic massage rollers are smooth from one end to the other, but others are deliberately lumped or bumpy. Smooth rollers give an okay massage, but bumped rollers will push more deeply into your tissue to break up difficult to reach knots and stimulate muscle tissue. It also help you hit more of your trigger points and get faster pain relief.
I’ve lost track of how many muscle rollers we’ve tested over the years, but we finally found one that stood up to our rigorous testing to ensure sustained massage benefit use after use and earn the Healthy Back Institute Seal of Approval. It’s called the Bumpy Roller.
Most soft massage rollers we’ve tested are probably better suited as a pool noodle than a massage device. But the Bumpy Roller features 200 extra-strong bumps for the most effective trigger point release we’ve found yet in a massage roller.
And the funny thing is, the Bumpy Roller costs less than many of the “high-end” massage rollers we’ve tested that didn’t do half the job. So if you’re looking for a great massage roller for just about any form of muscle pain, the Bumpy Roller gets my highest recommendation.
Get the Bumpy Roller Today at a Special Discount!
Free Your Muscles. Men’s Health.
Zalta, J. Massage Therapy Protocol for Post-Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome: A Case Report. International Journal of Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork, Vol 1:2 2008.
Written By: Updated: January 11,2012