I was introduced to the Ma roller years ago by a friend in the yoga community. It doesn’t look very exciting, just a wooden dowel with some knobs on it. It is the most effective tool for back pain I’ve found.
The Ma roller is a remarkably simply tool that most wouldn’t consider. It’s a piece of wood with two knobs that press into the strips of muscle along your spine. Massage therapists spend so much time getting these muscles to relax and this tool does the best job of anything I’ve encountered in my years working with bodies.
You lay down on the tool and it presses into the muscles on either side of your spine. The impact of the tool comes not only from a sustained, long term pressure on musculature that is tight but the fact that you receive a very gentle backbend as you continue to relax. This pushing of the spine allows a very pointed, precise backbend for specific vertebrae. You’re able to relax superficial muscles that are often overstretched and tissue that’s overly tight is given time to truly give way.
As with a yoga pose you use the tool within reason. It’s not supposed to cause pain but it is supposed to be intense if that is what your body needs. Intense gets your attention but it doesn’t tell you to stop.
When I first used the Ma roller I found that I needed the most help in my upper back or thoracic spine. It provides a stronger backbend here due to the way your spine’s natural curves press out against the roller. If I ever found the pressure to be too intense I could fold a towel over the roller and it softened the pressure the knobs place on my spine while in use.
Over the years my upper back and cervical spine have improved but as soon as I’d worked through this I began developing low back pain. I’ve worked with it for several years now, it comes and goes and the Ma hadn’t been used in awhile. I decided to use it again and placed it around my lumbar paraspinal musculature only to discover that I had some deep tension here that felt old. Right along my core I could feel shooting pains from this area to the heads of my femurs in my hips then about half way down my thighs.
My wife giggled as I groaned for ten minutes or so hanging out in what is some very intense sensation in my low back. After having these muscles release some and gently moving my vertebrae I stood up and felt much more free. My low back wasn’t as rock solid and upon twisting my spine it adjusted strongly and down into my sacroiliac joints. Later that day in yoga class I noticed that when I went into what’s commonly called superman I could feel those muscles tighten for the first time in awhile. Previously I was getting almost no additional contraction, the muscles were already squeezing so tightly I couldn’t feel them anymore.
Over time the area is letting go and I find forward bending to be easier and with less strain. I’m not always completely certain what’s tight and why but the Ma roller is only one of the two tools I recommend to clients.
Get one and use it, your back will thank you.