Three Things to Look for in a Foam Back Roller

Sometimes the easiest way to ease muscle pain and sore joints is to just roll around on the floor a little—will a foam roller, of course.

Athlete foam rolling calf.
Foam rollers are an inexpensive alternative to professional pain relief.321 STRONG,

Recurring back or neck pain can be a debilitating experience. Massage or pressure-point therapy works great, but chronic pain never sleeps, and it’s nearly impossible to keep a helping hand on call around the clock. Short of employing a private masseuse, the next best thing is a simple foam back roller. These staples of physical therapy programs are inexpensive, effective, and easy to use. Here are a few features to consider before buying.


TriggerPoint GRID Foam Roller with Free Online Instructional Videos
Look for a roller made to hold its shape over time.Trigger Point Performance

Traditional rollers were really nothing more than oversized pool noodles. But the solid foam from which they were made tended to break down over time and stay compressed. One twist to solve that problem is a foam surface laminated over a stiff, hollow core. Those will be firmer than a solid foam roller (perhaps too stiff for some), but they hold their shape and won’t compress as much over time.

Roller Width

AmazonBasics High-Density Round Foam Roller, Black and Speckled Colors
Choose the width of the roller depending on the area of your body you plan to use it on.AmazonBasics

The width of a foam back roller really depends on what you intend to use it for. Go wider for working areas around the shoulder blades and upper back, whereas a narrower roller will suffice for the lower back, neck, glutes, or thighs.

Surface Texture

321 STRONG Foam Roller - Medium Density Deep Tissue Massager for Muscle Massage and Myofascial Trigger Point Release
Choose the width of the roller depending on the area of your body you plan to use it on.321 STRONG

Originally, foam back rollers were all smooth, and they worked great for gentle self-massaging. But for increased pressure to simulate the techniques or a real masseuse, think about a roller with a textured surface. The knurled and ridged surface gives you more options for exactly where you want to apply pressure, and how much.