Which foam rollers for sciatica are best?
Shooting pain that radiates down the legs from the lower back is associated with sciatica and can be debilitating. One way to naturally relieve sciatica pain is to stretch the affected area with a foam roller. There are a wide variety of foam rollers on the market that can be used to manage sciatica. The top choice for an inclusive foam rolling kit that can be used to target the pain from sciatica is the Odoland Foam Roller Set. However, there are other foam roller options that effectively prevent the onset of sciatica pain.
What to know before you buy a foam roller for sciatica
What is sciatica?
Sciatica is a medical condition that occurs when the sciatic nerve becomes impinged due to injury or postural imbalances. The sciatic nerve begins in the lower back (lumbar spine) and runs down the legs. The radiating pain that is associated with sciatic travels down the path of the sciatic nerve. Usually sciatic pain only occurs on one side of the body and is accompanied by numbness, tingling and muscle weakness.
According to MedlinePlus, causes of sciatica include:
- Poor posture that leads to a spinal compression of the sciatic nerve.
- Ruptured intervertebral disk.
- Spinal stenosis, which is a narrowing of the spinal canal that puts pressure on the sciatic nerve.
- Injuries that affect the sciatic nerve, such as a pelvic fracture.
Foam roller benefits
The top benefit associated with foam rollers for sciatica is the self-myofascial release technique. Myofascial release therapy is the process of increasing blood flow to tight muscle tissue. Fascia is a type of connective tissue that surrounds muscles and bones. Myofascial release is a massage technique that manipulates the fascial tissues that are causing muscle tension by increasing blood flow and circulation. Myofascial pain typically happens because of muscle injury, overuse and postural imbalances. Foam rolling can also increase range of motion, decrease inflammation and relieve muscle soreness. Finally, foam rolling is an effective tool to stretch muscles before and after physical activity.
How to manage sciatica with a foam roller
To manage sciatica, all of the muscle groups that contribute to postural imbalance will need to be addressed. Start by situating the foam roller under one muscle group at a time, then rolling the area for about a minute. If an especially tender area is found, maintain pressure with the roller in that area for an additional minute or so until the tenderness has significantly decreased.
Spending prolonged periods sitting is a common source of postural imbalance, so don’t ignore the benefits of an ergonomic chair in helping to alleviate sciatica pain.
What to look for in a quality foam roller for sciatica
Foam roller construction
Foam rollers come in one of three construction types: open-cell, EPP and EVA.
The most inexpensive foam rollers on the market are produced with open-cell construction. Open-cell foam rollers are suitable for self-myofascial release to manage sciatica pain. However, they tend to break down much faster than closed-cell rollers such as EPP and EVA rollers.
An EPP foam roller is a closed-cell roller that is made from EPP foam beads. They are still relatively inexpensive and are generally more durable than open-cell rollers.
The professional-grade foam rollers on the market are EVA rollers. Frequently found at gyms or rehab clinics, EVA rollers are known for their durability.
Foam roller size
Foam rollers are usually 5 to 6 inches in diameter. Some prefer to use 3- to 4-inch foam rollers for a targeted approach that works deeper into a muscle group. Choose whichever diameter offers the most stability and control while being moved under the body.
Foam roller kits
A foam roller kit includes tools that can be used to target sciatica nerve compression. Here are the best foam roller kit tools to consider for sciatica:
Muscle roller stick
The key difference between a foam roller and a muscle roller stick is the method in which pressure is applied for self-myofascial release. A muscle roller stick can be used for areas that are harder to roll with a foam roller, such as the inner thigh, shins and quads.
A stretching strap can be used to gradually increase the depth of a stretch without needing the aid of another person. Wrap one end of a stretch strap around the foot and grab the handle to stretch the hamstrings and quads.
Massage balls can be used to work deeper into muscles and reach areas that foam rollers can’t. There are various sizes and textures of massage balls that can be used for trigger point work and myofascial release in the arms, neck, shoulders, glutes and feet.
How much you can expect to spend on a foam roller for sciatica
A foam roller that comes with a kit to target sciatica pain will run between $20-$60, depending upon the construction materials and number of additional tools that are included.
Foam roller for sciatica FAQ
Is pain relief cream helpful for sciatica?
A. Pain relief creams contain numbing agents meant to relieve nerve pain and increase blood flow. Applying a pain relief cream to address sciatica may offer short-term relief.
What is the difference between sciatica and piriformis syndrome?
A. In both sciatica and piriformis syndrome, the sciatic nerve is impinged, causing pain. However, in piriformis syndrome, the piriformis muscle located in the glutes becomes tight and presses on the sciatic nerve, causing pain. Massaging the piriformis muscle will effectively relieve pain from piriformis syndrome.
What’s the best foam roller for sciatica to buy?
Top foam roller for sciatica
What you need to know: A large 18-inch EVA foam roller that offers full-body coverage with a high-density PVC core for durability.
What you’ll love: In addition to a roller, the price includes a muscle roller stick, massage balls and a portable bag.
What you should consider: The foam roller is slightly shorter than preferred for rolling the back.
Where to buy: Amazon
Top foam roller for sciatica for the money
What you need to know: This textured triple-zone massage roller has end caps that open to store the included accessories (massage stick, stretch strap and massage balls).
What you’ll love: The roller comes with a lifetime manufacturer’s warranty and money-back guarantee.
What you should consider: The end caps may become loose over time.
Where to buy: Amazon
Worth checking out
What you need to know: Designed by a chiropractor to enhance spinal flexibility, this roller looks like a wheel with a gap and has four rows of large bumps, which decreases pressure on the spine.
What you’ll love: Constructed with EVA foam, this roller can withstand weights of up to 1,000 pounds.
What you should consider: Some find the design of this roller painful to use compared to traditional-shaped rollers.
Where to buy: Amazon
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Elizabeth Foley writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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