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The foam roller is a tool used to increase mobility and improve the soft tissue quality. That said, one are you never want to foam roll is your lower back or lumbar spine. There is a big difference between the thoracic spine and lumber spine when it comes to the benefits of foam rolling. In this video, I’m going to show you exactly what that is and tell you what to focus on instead if you are attempting to loosen up a stiff lower back.

It helps to start out at by looking at the anatomy of the spine. There are three defined zones of the spine; the cervical, thoracic and lumbar verterbrae. The cervical spine is the upper 7 segments that are located in your neck. The thoracic spine is the middle 12 segments that make up the middle of your torso. The lumber spine is the final 5 vertebrae that make up the lower back. Most disc issues occur in either the cervical or lumbar spine.

If you look closely at the differences between the thoracic and lumbar spine there is one that should jump out at you more than any other. That is, the thoracic vertebra articulate with the ribs on the front side at each level while the vertebra in the lumber spine has no connection with the ribs. This means that the middle back is supported on the front by a very stable ribcage while the lumbar spine is afforded non such luxury and is much more unstable because of this.

If you are going to foam roll your upper back you also get the benefit of having the force dispersed to the nearby scapula or shoulder blades as well. In fact, you consciously have to raise your arms out over your body if you want to target and hit the spine most effectively during the foam rolling. But beyond this there is another very important anatomical difference that accounts for the approval of rolling of the upper back and disapproval of rolling of the lower back. That is, the natural curvatures of those areas of the spine.

The thoracic spine is naturally curved forward into something called kyphosis. This is when we slump our shoulders forward and look hunched over. This gets worse the more we ignore our posture and develop muscle imbalances over time. We are all chronically deficient in thoracic extension. Using the foam roller to help us get more extension is one of the most valuable things we can do in the gym, especially on back day.

On the other hand, the curve of the lumber spine is opposite. It is naturally lordotic which means that it curves backwards. Forcing your lower back into more extension is going to aggravate many conditions that are devastating if the extension gets worse (like stenosis or a spinal stress fracture). Even if neither of these conditions exist, you are never really able to effectively roll this area because the muscles surrounding the lower back spasm to try and protect the delicate unprotected area.

For all of these reasons it is best to look to other ways to address the stiffness and tightness you are feeling in your lower back. Namely, its time to look to the muscles of the hips and glutes.

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For more videos on how to fix low back pain and the best stretches for your lower back, be sure to subscribe to our channel here on youtube at http://youtube.com/user/jdcav24
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  1. Back extension exercises help me tremendously with my back.
    I have back surgery, stenosis L5-S1, scars tissue after surgery, some bulging L3-L4, L4-L5 disks.
    The best book that promote back extensions is McKenzie that is a legend in back therapy
    Overall is not only about extensions. You need to keep your back mobility in all directions in order to keep back pain and back stiffness away

  2. I foam roll my lower back, but not with the terrible form that you used at the start of the video. I flex my core and roll my entire body from neck to glutes. I guess to each his own.

  3. I cured my badly knoted lower back musles using a roller on them. I never put my full body weight on it , I always supported my upper body with one of my arms. The roller worked perfect to fix my lower back, just don't put your full body weight on it

  4. After a serious nerve impingement laid me out for over a month, my (former) physiotherapist did the usual: massage, TENS, some stretching exercises, etc. She also suggested I start using a stiff foam roller for my lumbar. I forked out (too much) money for the roller and, the very first time I used it, I figured she's gotta be nuts! I could immediately tell it was the very worst thing for my lumbar at that time. Glad Jeff made this video. Maybe others can learn before they burn.

  5. What about the abs? I roll every part of my body. I'm obsessed with my foam roller. I start on my chest keep my head and arms up then arch up and use my feet to roll out my chest and sides. Then slide forward while keeping my legs elevated and rest the foam roller on my ribs and lift my legs and use my hands to roll out my core. I hit the sides and all. How bad am I messing myself up here? I mean from what you said hitting the abs after the upper back and alil of your chest wouldn't it be good for the lower spine since the pressure on the gut pushes the curve outward? or am I hurting myself here?

  6. DISAGREE. i have had insane back pain for years. i tired stretching, inversion, supplements, etc. nothing helped. then one day i foam rolled my lower back, and the pain was instantly one. i fucking love my foam roller. best 20 dollars i ever spent in my life. a true life saver.

  7. What's your opinion of those Chirp Roller Wheels for your back? They are three sizes with rubber roller covers… my back has never felt better, now, I'm concerned. Is it the small diameter of the foam roller that's the problem? I use the large and medium diameter wheels and I was wondering if there could be problems in the lumbar region, but it definitely took away the pain from sitting at my computer too long. Thanks again for your excellent videos!

  8. Yes I do have a question and I really really hope you can do a video about it cause its almost same idea and the lower but on the knee. I have this weird knee pain when I squat it's like it's not stable and if I miss focusing on the good perfect movement I feel I can have a big injury.
    Thank you.

  9. what if i roll more on the side, like actually rolling each side of the lower back muscle individually? it feels really good and i never roll like center on the spine