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Can a foam roller be used to treat a bulging disc?

A form of self-massage, foam rolling involves the application of controlled pressure to tight muscles. Long used by athletes to relieve muscle pain, this therapy is now gaining popularity among the general public as well. Foam rolling can be safely used to alleviate back pain caused by a bulging disc, but it must be properly performed. Otherwise, it could potentially do more harm than good.

How to treat a bulging disc with a foam roller

If you have a bulging disc, you should talk with your physician before trying any at-home treatment to address muscle tightness in your back. Also, if you are new to foam rolling, you might want to work with a physical therapist who can show you how to correctly use the device.

Here are some specific tips on how to use a foam roller for a bulging disc:

  • Avoid your lower back. In your upper back, your spine is protected by your shoulder blades and muscles, so it is generally safe to roll in this area. However, there are no similar structures in your lower back to protect your spine from pressure. Therefore, when using a foam roller on your back, you should always stop at the end of your ribcage.
  • Maintain good posture. When using a foam roller, you may find that you need to position your body awkwardly in order to reach the targeted areas, and this can lead to injuries. A physical therapist can explain how to use proper form when rolling.
  • Don’t roll directly over painful areas. Foam rolling can be uncomfortable, but it should never hurt or cause bruising. Many people are inclined to apply excessive pressure to trigger points, which actually result from tension imbalances in other areas. Instead, try working a localized region around a tender spot.
  • Move slowly. Rolling quickly might feel good, but it won’t reduce muscle tightness. To roll correctly, you should move no more than one inch per second. By moving slowly, you give your muscles sufficient time to adapt to and relax with the pressure.

Does your bulging disc warrant surgery?

If you’re interested in exploring minimally invasive spine surgery to address your bulging disc, contact USA Spine Care to request a free MRI review.* Our team can explain the benefits and risks of our minimally invasive outpatient procedures and help you decide if you are a candidate.

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