Is A Chirp Wheel Better Than A Foam Roll For Lower Back Pain?
In this post, I'll to give you a review of a chirp wheel and compare it to a foam roller and tell you the similarities and differences when using it for lower back pain.
How I Discovered The Chirp Wheel
My wife actually wanted a Chirp Wheel for a Christmas present.
I had never heard of it, but as long as we had it, it may be useful to make a review video so that if you're considering buying one, you can learn from our experiences.
Hopefully, this post will help you decide if it's worth buying a Chirp Wheel vs just using a foam roll for your back pain.
Chirp Wheel vs Foam Roll: Similarities
The similarities between the two is that this six inch Chirp Wheel that we have is roughly the same size as a foam roller.
Chirp Wheels can come in several different sizes. The sizes vary from 4 inches in diameter for your neck to 12 inches in diameter for your back. Other sizes include 6 and 10 inches in diameter. They can also be sold in sets where you can buy multiple different sizes.
The smaller diameter like this one provides you with more pressure. A larger diameter wheel provides more of a stretch and less pressure.
If you're looking for a superficial massage, a larger diameter wheel may be something that you would want.
Personally, we like more pressure, so we bought the smaller one.
What are other similarities between a foam roller and the chirp wheel?
Well, you can use them both in roughly the same manner.
You can roll up and down them. You put your spine on it and roll back and forth.
Watch the video above to see how to use a Chirp Wheel and foam roll for lower back pain.
Chirp Wheel vs Foam Roll: Differences
The difference is the little groove in here for the spine.
So when you're using this specifically for your upper or lower back, it gives you space where your spinous processes can rest in that groove so it's not quite as uncomfortable as you're rolling.
Additionally, the padded ridges on the side allow the Chirp Wheel to get a little bit deeper into the muscles around the spine without being uncomfortable.
They do make padded foam rollers.
However, the one in the video is just a regular foam roll, so it's somewhat hard.
It is going to be more comfortable to have this padding on the Chirp Wheel and have the groove in the center.
The downside of the Chirp Wheel is its decreased versatility when compared to the foam roll.
We felt that the Chirp Wheel was only good for rolling the back and addressing the back pain. In contrast, the foam rollers can also be used for other body structures, like the IT band and the lats. Additionally, standard foam rollers like this one are typically less expensive.
You can also choose to get the padded foam rollers, but they typically are more expensive than the standard foam rollers.
The padded foam rollers and chirp wheels are similar in price. Those are the differences between the two.
How To Use A Chirp Wheel And Foam Roll For Lower Back Pain
Now, I'll show you how to use both the chirp wheel and foam roll. Then, I'll tell you the differences in what I feel as I'm using one versus the other.
How To Use A Foam Roll For Lower Back Pain
First, I'll use the foam roller.
You just want to lay on it, slightly walk backwards, and then roll back-and-forth.
If you're using the foam roller for lower back pain, it can be uncomfortable to roll over your lower back, especially if you allow yourself to create extension (backward arching) in your lower back.
You typically do not want to further extend your low back, so it is really good to roll mostly along your upper back.
You sometimes might get little pops out of your spine, which often feels good.
However, when you're rolling at the level of your shoulder blades’ area, the foam roller can get blocked by the bony parts of the shoulder blades.
As a result, you might not reach the area between your spine and your shoulder blades.
To address this, you can give yourself a tight hug to spread your shoulder blades out more.
However, even doing this I still don't really feel the foam roll in the groove around the spine.
I feel it more on the shoulder blades itself.
As you roll towards the lower back, make sure to keep your stomach muscles tight so that your back is not hyperextending over the foam roller.
See the video above for more details.
How To Use A Chirp Wheel For Lower Back Pain
For the Chirp Wheel, initially place it right by your buttock. Have the groove in the center of your spine so that the spinous processes go into that groove.
Then lay on your back on top of the Chirp Wheel of it and you can walk backwards.
Because it's not as long as the foam roller, I am able to reach the spots between my shoulder blades a lot better.
If you're using the Chirp Wheel primarily for upper back, shoulder, or shoulder blade pain, then the Chirp Wheel is probably the better option for you.
As you roll down towards the lower back, I don't notice as much of a difference.
There's slightly deeper pressure with the chirp wheel because it allows the spinous process to sink in a little bit deeper.
Similar to using the foam roller, tighten the abdominal muscles first before rolling down towards the lower back to prevent hyper-extension of the spine.
Additionally, no significant differences were present between the two devices in the lower mid-back.
The chirp wheel did allow for a deeper pressure and a little bit deeper of a massage. The biggest difference is between the shoulder blades.
That's the location where I'd say the Chirp Wheel is the clear winner.
So whether or not you should buy a Chirp Wheel vs a foam roll for lower back pain is a personal decision based on your specific needs.
If you want a little bit more versatility and being able to use it a few more places, then the foam roller is probably your best bet.
On the other hand, if you are particularly looking for something to help you get a little bit better mobilization in your upper or middle back, especially between the shoulder blade area, then the chirp wheel is probably your best choice.
What DON'T The Chirp Wheel And Foam Roller Do For Lower Back Pain?
Although both the Chirp Wheel and the foam roller can feel good if you have lower back pain, neither of them address the route cause of your back pain.
That means you have to keep using the Chirp Wheel or the foam roller if you want to keep your back pain from coming back.
If you'd like to discover the root cause of your lower back pain and what can be done to address it so that you can get rid of your back pain and keep it from coming back, tap the button below to request a Free Discovery Visit with one of our specialist physical therapists.