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How I Scored a Lifetime of Massage, Physical Therapy, & Chiropractor Work for Just $60

Last updated by on January 3, 2015

It was a normal mid-summer day. I jogged about two miles in to work, did a few situps when I got there, slaved away at my desk for 9 hours, then jogged home.

Throughout the day, I noticed a spot in my lower back getting tight. Did I pull something during the situps, I wondered? The subsequent jog home loosened the spot up a bit and everything seemed fine.

After arriving home, things took a turn for the worse as my back started tightening up again.

By the end of the day, I was reduced to crawling from one room to the next. The pain was so excruciating that I could not stand up and walk.

The entire next day, much of the same. I hobbled around the office hunched over, dragging one leg behind me. By this point, my entire back had seized up around the original problem spot. If I could have crawled around the office without creating a scene, I would have. Sitting at a desk all damn day certainly wasn’t helping the situation.

cheap massageThat afternoon, I booked an emergency massage appointment. One hour later and $50 poorer, I left defeated. Despite the massage therapists best efforts (she specializes in rehab and sports massage, btw), my condition had only slightly improved. An hour after that, it was like I hadn’t even gone at all.

That night I tried heat, cold, stretching, lying on soft surfaces, lying on hard surfaces, walking… nothing seemed to work.

One day and zero improvement later, I ran in to a neighbor across the street and told him of my predicament.

“Have you tried a foam roller?”

“A what?, I replied.

“A high density foam roller. Here, let me go get one.”

<Neighbor returns with giant black foam cylinder that looked like something pulled out of a Chuck E. Cheese play pen>

“Go home and roll your back across this.”

Skeptical, I returned home at snail’s pace.

Then I tried it.

After about 5 minutes of rolling and stretching my back across the roller, I stood up. What happened next was completely shocking. I walked across my living room, normal gait, with ZERO pain. WTF?! Encouraged, I spent another 5 minutes rolling. Then immediately went on a half hour walk with my wife and the dog, with no pain.

3 days of down time, an hour long massage, hours of ice, heat, and stretching had negligible, if any impact. 10 minutes on an inanimate piece of foam? Problem solved. The instant dramatic turn-around resembled something out of a healing-power televangelist scene in a movie.

A believer, I promptly rushed to Amazon and bought a super high density foam roller of my own – this one, specifically. I have tried a few others since and STRONGLY recommend the super high density (black), 36-inch, full-round version. The black foam represents the highest density, offering the most resistance on your body and best results. Once you go black foam roller, you never go back (or so I hear).

A number of manufacturers make them and foam is a readily available commodity, so they are cheap. My cost at the time? $30.

I have since used the foam roller before work, after work, and before bed – every single day. I have notoriously bad posture, sit at a desk all day, have a horrible kink in my neck, and have some hip alignment problems from heel striking when running. The foam roller addresses all those problems and occasional tension in my calves from cycling or arms from working out.

body back buddyAfter much research, I have since paired it with a Body Back Buddy, which presents similar self-generated results for acute spots that a foam roller can’t put enough pressure on. I start with the foam roller and end with the Back Buddy. And now I recommend them to anyone I come across who has back, leg, or hip pain. Judging by its looks, it probably has some alternative uses as well.

Point here is not to diminish the work many fine massage or physical therapists perform or that these two tools can cure all physical ills. And as you know, I’m not a proponent of most “stuff”. There are numerous exceptions, however, that can lead to better health, better environment, and better finances. These tools are a great example of how a small strategic investment can produce a lifetime of savings. And all it took was a little creative exploration. Oh… and I’m not a doctor, but you already knew that.


  • What health-related purchases have you made that have turned out to be great investments?
  • What non-health-related purchases have produced a positive ROI for you?

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About the Author
I am G.E. Miller, & this is my story. My goal is financial independence ASAP. If you share that goal, join me & 10,000+ others by getting FREE email updates. You can also explore every post I have written, in order.

  • Greg says:

    I too was skeptical about foam rollers until eventually my chronically tight hips forced me to think outside of the traditional methods of treatment. Years of chiropractic have helped my back and neck, but nothing has done much for my hips. It’s crazy to imagine that this relatively short piece of foam has managed to almost completely eliminate all of the pain and stiffness in my hips, increase my flexibility, and make a drastic improvement in my daily life, but it certainly has.

    I purchased an 18″ foam roller by Gaiam locally (just because I wanted to have it that day) and paid almost as much as you did for your 36″ one. This one specifically

    Thank you again for sharing; I’ll have to look into the Back Buddy!

  • not a doctor says:

    There should be a medical disclaimer at the beginning of this article.

    • Greg says:

      The whole world is becoming too PC and obnoxious. The blog is called “20 Something Finance”, not “20 Something Medical Advice”. It’s an editorial based on his personal experiences.

      There’s a “My Story” page that talks about him, who he is, what he does, etc. How about personal accountability for readers to check their sources and realizing that their mileage may vary, rather than taking everything they read as gospel.

  • Brian Anderson says:

    I have had chronic back problems myself, working in IT, my upper back is always tight and as such have had monthly visits to a chiropractor for many years. My doctor sold me a foam roller and I use it every day. It has changed my life. I even have a second half size roller I take with me when I travel. For $20 for the small one, it’s a blessing after a long car ride!

  • Michelle says:

    I am married to a deep tissue massage therapist (yes, it’s wonderful) who has been in private practice for over 20 years. She sees a massage therapist and chiropractor regularly – and also uses the roller. Not this brand necessarily, but – great tool, solid recommendation.

  • Natalie H says:

    I have several friends who are massage therapists. They all recommend the back buddy. They also recommend rolling any problem areas on various sized tennis balls in a sock and/or using a “knobber.” They also taught me some stretches I could do to alleviate pain caused by sitting in a chair all day. However, I’ve never heard of a foam roller until now. I’m going to have to try it.

    Probably my best “medical” investment was to buy a physical therapy video for pelvic floor issues after the birth of my son. It’s called “Hab It – Pelvic Floor.” The doctors just wanted to do surgery, but this video worked for me.

  • I’m glad it worked so well for you. I’ve heard of those, but have never tried one. I have good work benefits and luckily get massage for free. I think that dental care (no matter how much in dollar amounts that means) is incredibly important and holds a great ROI.

  • Andy says:

    I totally realate Greg. I had back issues that a number of chiro’s could not fix. But rather than a roll I found that stretching with a rubber band (particularly my hamstrings) provided the most relief. If I miss a day of stretching, I definetly notice the difference.

  • Ron Ablang says:

    I am glad you wrote this article but it would’ve been nice to know the reasoning (even if quoted from sources) why this works or what it does to your body.

  • Jeff says:

    Great article. I suffered from bad pain in my mid and upper back for years, rolling fixed it almost immediately.

    Just an FYI I saved $30 and cut a 36 inch x 6 inch peice of PVC, wrapped it in duct tape and use that, works like a charm. Two lacrosse balls, (3-pack for 6 bucks at the local sporting goods shop) taped together make a great miniroller and the single ball when roller on substitutes well for the back buddy.

    Check out K-stars MWOD videos on youtube, great source for body maintenance exercises.

  • Ryan says:

    I recently started reading and enjoyed reading this article. I have known of the magic that foam rollers can do for a few years now. I noticed that you said you have hip alignment problems from heel striking. Have you ever tried to switch to fore-foot striking? I was a heavy heel striker in high school and did not know there was another way to run. I made the switch (which took some time) but it is a great decision. Certainly less injury prone!

    Really enjoying reading all of your articles!


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