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.
That 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.
After 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 in money saving products 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. And if you want to take it further, you can even build an affordable home gym and get rid of your gym membership.
- 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?