Thanks for stopping by, today I want to discuss using a foam roller for sciatica. I have been dealing with sciatic nerve (and sciatic nerve-type) pain for many years, and a foam roller is one way I can help keep the pain at bay. If you are looking for a drug-free way to get some pain relief, please continue reading.
- 1 What is sciatica?
- 2 How does a foam roller for sciatica help?
- 3 Benefits
- 4 Who is a foam roller for?
- 5 Conclusion: Using foam rollers for sciatica
If you have experienced sciatica, or sciatica-like pain (I will explain in a minute), you know all too well how painful that can be, as it ranges from annoying to debilitating. At times, my sciatica pain has been so bad that it has literally brought me to my knees.
Since I have a long history of low back problems, the muscles in my low back, and butt, mostly upper glutes and piriformis muscle, are very tight. Years of back problems have caused my muscles to tighten to protect those areas that are vulnerable.
Unwinding the tight muscles can be a challenge, and that is where a foam roller has come in very handy. Before we get too much farther, let’s talk about the basics of sciatica.
What is sciatica?
Sciatica is pain that travels along the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve begins in the lower back and runs down both legs all the way down to your toes. When the nerve is pinched or compressed, let the pain begin.
Sciatic nerve pain is often described as a shooting or tingling pain that radiates from your butt down your legs. I definitely have a lot of experience with the pain shooting down my right leg, sometimes all the way to toes, just to give you an example.
One thing I want to make clear is that sciatica is a symptom of a more severe problem and is caused by compression of the sciatic nerve.
Now the sciatica-like pain I mentioned earlier. Sciatica is a funny thing, and can also be confused with piriformis syndrome. The sciatic nerve runs in front of the piriformis muscle, and when it is tight, it can irritate the sciatic nerve. This causes sciatica-like pain down the leg, and this is what I am focusing on with this post.
How does a foam roller for sciatica help?
Foam rolling is a type of self-myofascial release (SMR) and can be used to help relieve tight muscles and knots . That’s a lot of big words, and I would like to break that down further. “Myo” refers to muscle and fascia is the connective tissue that protects the muscles.
The fascia can be affected by overuse, trauma, or even inactivity. If you are like me, you probably do a lot of sitting during the day…also called inactivity. All this sitting can cause your hamstrings to shorten and potentially lead to sciatica-like pain.
Here is a great video from TriggerPoint that explains all of this in detail.
SMR is the process of finding those tight, uncomfortable trigger points, helping to relax the muscles, giving them a great massage. Well, sometimes it doesn’t feel so awesome when you find a trigger point.
Foam rolling also helps to break down scar tissue and increase blood flow to the area, so healing can take place. This article from Spine-Health talks about how tight hamstrings put added stress on the low back and often aggravate, or even cause some of the conditions that cause sciatica. So, loosening up certain muscle groups can really help with sciatica.
People use foam rollers for many reasons, like helping to release muscle pain and tightness, improved range of motion, increase blood flow to muscles, and to help improve mobility and balance. Personally, I use a foam roller to work out the muscles around my hips, lower back, hamstrings, and quadriceps.
Other great reasons to use a foam roller
Using a foam roller before working out will increase tissue elasticity, increase range of motion, and blood flow. Given this, rolling can help to protect from injury while working out.
Rolling after a workout is an excellent way to help with recovery. Foam rolling increases blood flow, which helps to bring oxygen and nutrients to your muscles. You often see athletes rolling post-workout as this helps with recovery.
Who is a foam roller for?
Foam rolling isn’t just for sciatica, a lot of people can benefit from using a foam roller including:
- Athletes – for rolling out before or after a workout
- Office worker – who sit a lot during the day
- People who drive for a living
- People who suffer from back pain
To wrap that all up, foam rolling can help to massage your tight muscles, specifically the piriformis, which can help to relieve pressure on the sciatic nerve.
Whew, that was a lot! Now we can finally take a look-see at some great foam rollers.
GRID Foam Roller from TriggerPoint
Product: GRID Foam Roller
Size:13 inches long x 5.5 inches round
Weight limit: 500 pounds
Summary: The GRID Foam Roller from TriggerPoint offers an affordable and excellent tool to help with those tight knots. The hard hollow core combined with the foam exterior helps to deliver an excellent massage to release muscle pain and tightness.
- Patented foam roller Design offersa superior, Multi density exterior constructed over a rigid, hollow core
- Constructed from Quality Materials that wont break down or lose shape from repeated use
- Includes access to Free online instructional video library on foam rolling Best practices from the experts at TriggerPoint
- Trusted foam roller of physical and Massage therapists, coaches, trainers and athletesprovides muscle recovery, pain relief and improved flexibility
- OriginalGRID: Standard density, 13 x 5.5 inches, 500 pound weight limit; 1 year manufacturer's Warranty
I recently purchased this foam roller to give it a shot and see if I liked it or not, and I have to say it’s been a great addition. My problem areas are around my hips, the glute medius, and piriformis, all of this on the right side of my body.
The GRID Foam Roller is soft yet firm enough to get a deep roll and help loosen up my tight muscles. I am battling years of back injuries, so the muscles in my lower back have been fighting and protecting to help prevent further damage. This foam roller hurts so good.
GRID Foam Roller details
This roller is sturdy and will maintain its shape with repeated use. The design, with a hard hollow core, is going to keep its form over time and will not break down or bow like traditional foam rollers. That is one thing I was really interested in when I was looking for a foam roller, something that will last.
The padded, three-dimensional surface of the roller is dense yet soft to the touch, but don’t let that fool you. The cover is designed to promote the flow of blood, nutrients, and oxygen to your muscles to help in the repair process. You can really dig into those tight areas that need a good roll.
There are different zones on the surface of the roller meant to mimic a massage therapist’s hands. The surface pattern has some areas that are high points (like fingertips), tubular (mimics fingers) and some that are flat (like the palm of a hand).
These zones combine for excellent rolling through all your tight muscles and knots. If you have a particularly tough spot, you can focus on that area with the bumpy part of the roller, to dig deep.
Some of the things I really like about this roller are:
The roller is 13 x 5.5 inches, so it is easy to store and excellent for taking with you when you are working or traveling. Great size for your gym bag too.
- DurabilityThe rigid, hollow core keeps its shape over time and not breakdown like traditional foam rollers. The soft yet firm foam surface is designed to help you roll out those tight areas.
I have had good success using this roller so far rolling out my glute medius and piriformis to help with my problem areas. I love the surface pattern, and the roller is made for beginners and advanced rollers alike.
- Variety of colors
The GRID Foam Roller is available in a variety of colors, so you are sure to get just the right one for you.
If you’d like to learn more about this foam roller, read our complete GRID Foam Roller review.
GRID X Foam Roller
Product: GRID X Foam Roller
Size:13 inches long x 5.5 inches round
Weight limit: 550 pounds
Summary: If you are looking for an extra firm foam roller, then the GRID X Foam Roller is for you. This roller was designed to break through your tightest trouble spots.
- Patented foam roller design offers a superior, multi-density exterior constructed over a rigid, hollow core
- Constructed from quality materials that won't break down or lose shape from repeated use
- Includes access to free online instructional video library on foam rolling best practices from the experts at TriggerPoint
- Trusted foam roller of physical and massage therapists, coaches, trainers and athletes provides muscle recovery, pain relief and improved flexibility
- GRID X: Extra-firm density, 13 x 5.5 inches; 550 pound weight limit; 1 year manufacturer's warranty
As I mentioned, this is the hardest foam roller in the group, and it is not for the faint of heart. The “X” stands for extra firm. This roller is pretty darn firm and will not soften like other rollers.
Here’s the deal when it comes to the firmness of foam rollers. Typically when people start out, they are not used to the sensation a foam roller provides, it can be downright painful. As you use a foam roller more and more, your muscles get used to it.
Typical rollers will also soften with repeated use. So the combination of your muscles getting used to a roller and the roller itself becoming softer often leads some people to need a harder foam roller.
GRID X features
The GRID X is similar to the GRID in that has a hard hollow core and a dense foam outer surface. The roller has a three-dimensional surface pattern with a variety of points on it, designed to mirror a massage therapist hand. The high points act as fingertips, and the lower, smooth points represent fingers and palms.
The high points on the roller are perfect for getting after those tight, nagging knots. The pattern of the roller allows you to control your foam rolling.
Things I really like about this roller:
- The size
This roller is an excellent size for most people. It is small enough to take with you on the go, like to the gym. If you take this in your suitcase or travel bag, you can pack your clothes in and around the roller itself. At 13 inches long, you can cover most areas you need to roll.
- It is firm
Again, this roller is pretty firm, so if you have worn out your other roller and are looking for something stronger than a traditional foam roller, then this is right up your alley.
This roller is built with quality materials and will not break down or lose its shape over time.
You can use this roller on all your major muscle groups including, quads, back, lats, hamstrings, glutes, etc.
- An excellent option for hips and glutes to help with sciatica and sciatica-like pain
I own the GRID X as well as the original GRID. The X is 2x as firm as the GRID. I like to use the softer roller for getting started, and I crank it up with the extra firm model. Anyone can use the GRID X, even if you are a beginner, but you may want to go light to start with.
The only negative thing I have to say about the X model is that on a hard floor, like tile or wood, it’s a bit clunky on the high points of the roller. I recommend using this roller on an exercise mat as it rolls a lot more smoothly.
GRID 2.0 Foam Roller
Product: GRID 2.0 Foam Roller
Size: 26 inches long x 5.5 inches round
Weight limit: 500 pounds
Summary: This is an extra-long (26 inch) foam roller, which is excellent for larger bodies and offers a very stable surface.
- Long length to accommodate Larger bodies
- Weight tested to Support up to 500 pounds/225 kg static load
- Environmental Design uses less foam than traditional foam rollers
- Backed by a one year Warranty; GRID 2.0: Standard density, 26 x 5.5 inches
- Hard, hollow core hand wrapped in EVA foam makes it firmer than traditional foam rollers
The GRID 2.0 is twice as long as the original GRID and will offer more stability for those who need it. This roller has the same surface pattern design which allows you to dig deep into knots when you need to, or gives you a more relaxing roll on the on lower points of the surface.
If you are new to foam rolling and are looking for extra stability, this may be an excellent option for you. The roller is designed with a hard, hollow core and a foam exterior which helps to make it firmer than a traditional foam roller.
The length is helpful for larger bodies and offers a very stable surface, great for beginners and more advanced rollers.
Features I like include:
Great for beginners and advanced users alike. The roller is stable and easy to use.
You can use the roller on all your major muscle groups to get those knots that prevent you from feeling great.
- Very durable
The rigid core of the roller and dense foam will keep the shape and not lose its effectiveness over time. This roller will last a long time and not break down with repeated use.
- Better for back and shoulders
Some people find the longer roller is better for rolling out your upper back and shoulders.
- Great for hips and glutes
This roller is not as travel-friendly as the GRID or the GRID X, so depending on your needs, you will have to decide if the length of this roller is right for you.
This foam roller is the same firmness as the GRID, so it is not the extra-firm variety.
CARBON Foam Roller
Product: CARBON Foam Roller
Size: 26 inches long x 5.5 inches round
Weight limit: 500 pounds
Summary: This extra firm foam roller from TriggerPoint will help you get those tight, deep knots that can keep you on the sidelines.
- Patented textured foam roller with extra-firm, high-profiled nodules that go deep into connective tissue to treat sore muscles
- Flat surface between the high-profiled nodules provides room for soft tissue displacement and manipulation enhancing the flow of nutrients
- Releases the toughest, deepest knots, reduces muscle soreness, and prevents injury through deep tissue self-massage
- Use before and after physical activity for maximum results; recommended for advanced foam rolling of very dense muscle tissue
- 26-inch roller measures 26 inches x 5.5 inches and weighs 3.8 pounds, ideal for rolling legs and large areas; manufacturers one-year limited warranty
This roller is designed explicitly for experienced rollers who need to get through that dense muscle tissue that a traditional foam roller will not reach. If you are an advanced user and don’t respond to conventional rollers, this one is for you.
The CARBON Foam Roller is extra firm and comes with high-profile nodules that will dig deep into the muscle tissue. There are flat surfaces between nodes to help bring blood flow to the area.
If you have super tight muscles in your hip and glutes and haven’t had any success relieving your sciatic nerve pain, you may want to give this roller a shot.
By using this roller regularly, you can get those tight knots and trigger points to help with soreness and recovery.
Things I like:
This roller comes in 13 and 26-inch sizes, so you can choose the best one for your needs. The 13-inch model is portable, and you can take it to the gym, or when you travel.
As I mentioned, this is not for the faint of heart, this roller is hard, and the nodules will dig deep. May not be suitable for everyone, but those who need a hard roller will love it.
- Great for hips and glutes
This roller is built on a hollow core and will last for years to come.
If you typically get little relief from foam rollers, you may not have one that is firm enough, or digs deep enough for you. Give this roller a try if you need a good deep tissue massage. The difference between this roller and the GRID X is the pattern, they are both equally stiff.
Conclusion: Using foam rollers for sciatica
If you are looking for a roller to help with not only sciatic nerve pain but also other muscle tightness and soreness you may be experiencing, give one of these foam rollers a try. Whether it is unlocking your hips, or rolling out your upper back, these foam rollers from TriggerPoint give you a lot of great options.
I own both the GRID and GRID X, and both work really well for me. The hard hollow core and the specially designed three-dimensional surface give you a great way to loosen up tight muscles that may be leading to pain. I highly recommend either one of these rollers.
Founded in 2002 by Cassidy Phillips an accomplished triathlete, (and out of the back of an RV mind you), TriggerPoint is a leader in at-home massage therapy tools. Their mission is to help people enhance their performance by speeding recovery time and preventing injuries.
Their website is full of great information, with how-to videos, a “Pain Point Guide” to help you find the right product. TriggerPoint has a lot of other rollers and sister companies with other great products.