Body hacking review: this cheap, high-density foam roller literally saved my ass

The gluteus maximus, with surrounding fascia. Skin covering area removed. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

I work from home at a treadmill desk that also doubles as a standing desk. Whether your work-day body position involves motion, as mine does, or you sit in a chair most of the time, your butt is probably the most neglected part of your body. I'm talking about your gluteus maximus, baby; the hard-working and chronically under-appreciated muscles that with so many of us, can be chronically tight; altering our gait and limiting the flow of energy through our back and legs.

I cannot afford to hire a masseuse to hang around my home all day periodically massaging my body (I know! So unfair!), so I researched foam rollers online at the advice of my cancer physical therapist. I tried a few, and ended up falling in love with one of the cheaper ones I found on Amazon. If you're a runner, walker, jogger, or swimmer, you'll want one of these bad boys, too. And they're a miracle worker tool for much more than just your ass.

Physical therapists and sports trainers use foam rollers to stretch muscles and tendons, and loosen soft tissue adhesions and scar tissue. Some of the exercises my post-cancer-surgery physical therapist taught me involve bearing down with my body weight on the cylindrical roller, and rocking back and forth across internally scarred areas along my upper back--the parts of my body most affected by my reconstruction surgery. It really helps me manage the chronic pain I have, almost two years out from my major cancer surgery.

For my readers who have had also had breast cancer surgery or reconstructive surgery of any kind, check with your doctors or your PT for medical clearance before using this. You're not supposed to use it too soon after an operation, but it's great to start as soon as they say you can, to help keep things loose and help your body heal.

A sports trainer I used to work with taught me other great tricks with this tool, to loosen fascia in the legs and butt, so that blood can circulate more freely and your body can relax into a more balanced rhythm of movement.

My favorite therapy exercise is this: Put the roller on the floor. Sit your butt down on the roller. Place your right ankle over your left knee, which is bent with your left foot on the floor in front of you. Shift your body weight to your right, so that your right glutes are pressing down on the roller. Rock back and forth, shifting your weight as you wish, to really dig in to whatever spots are most sore and tight. When you're done, repeat the whole process on your left side. I do that 3 or 4 times a day when I am working at my treadmill desk, to keep my hips and glutes open, and my gait balanced.

It's such a versatile tool.

You can google "foam roller myofascial release" or "foam roller physical therapy" and the like to find YouTube videos and photo/text tutorials that show you some of these exercises. This one's pretty great.

Black High Density Foam Roller 36-inch Round [Amazon, currently $19 with free shipping if you're a Prime user]

Two other roller tools are getting a lot of attention: The Grid, and the RumbleRoller, also Amazon-able. If you're on a budget or new to this, don't waste your money is my advice. They're like two or three times the price. And on the other side of the price spectrum, don't waste your dough on the ultra-cheap white foam rollers that aren't listed as "high-density." They wear out too quickly (the middle of the cylinder tends to become compressed with use).

Happy butt-rolling!