Back pain is one of the most common reasons people go to the doctor (according to the Mayo Clinic). We’ve both suffered from a variety of different pain and tension issues in different parts of our backs, from shoulders to the middle of our back right down to the lower back. No bueno.
Often our back pain has been caused by poor posture when sat at a desk, and can be exacerbated by a heavy training load and long runs. We’re always excited to find new ways to stretch and relieve tension in our backs, especially if they don’t involve going to a Chiropractor, which can get expensive. Enter the Chirp Wheel. This Chirp Wheel review covers the key features, pros, cons and our thoughts on using this back pain relief roller wheel.
Chirp Wheel Review – Table of Contents
- What is the Chirp Wheel and how does it work?
- Why use a Chirp Wheel and not a foam roller?
- How does the Chirp Wheel work?
- What size should you choose?
- Using the Chirp Wheel to relieve back pain
- Where to buy
- Chirp Wheel review summary
- Image Gallery
What is the Chirp Wheel and how does it work?
The Chirp Wheel (formerly known as the Plexus Wheel) is a firm roller wheel designed to relieve back pain and tension, which is FDA-registered as a medical device.
The concept is very simple: place the Chirp Wheel on the ground, and lie on it with your feet planted on the ground and the wheel sitting between your shoulder blades. Then carefully keeping your balance, roll slowly up and down the wheel, so it remains in the center of your back.
Why use a Chirp Wheel and not a foam roller?
For years we have used our foam roller to relieve tension in our backs as well as other parts of our body – that is, after all, one of the main reasons for having a foam roller.
Where the Chirp Wheel differs from the foam roller is that at 5 inches wide, it is narrow enough to fit between your shoulder blades, and has a channel in it that is intended to align with your spine, so you’re not rolling on your spine itself, and the pressure is therefore concentrated either side of your spine, between your shoulder blades and down the middle of your back.
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A foam roller, on the other hand, is either knobbly or a smooth cylinder of foam, so it doesn’t have the same structure.
The Chirp Wheel is made from an injection-molded plastic core (that can withstand up to 500lb of pressure) and an EVA foam soft outer layer.
How does the Chirp Wheel work on your back?
From the Chirp website: “The Chirp Wheel puts pressure on the muscles surrounding the spine. In doing so, the muscles are stretched and strengthened. The technical term for this is Myofascial Release. Myofascial is a fancy word for muscle, and release is referring to the tension within the muscle.”
Effectively, my understanding, as a non-professional, albeit someone who has asked many of qualified professionals questions about this in the past, the intention of such massages is that if the muscles are stretched in the right way, there is a release and that should result in reduced tension pretty much immediately. This often also results in the much sought-after ‘popping’ or ‘cracking’ sounds, which is apparently actually a result of the pressure within the joint changing (and not your bones actually cracking, in case you were wondering).
Chirp has a list of FAQ on their website, as well as more information on the wheel and some video demonstrations. It’s also worth noting that if the Chirp Wheel doesn’t work for you as you would hope, they offer a 60-day satisfaction guarantee so you can return it.
How do you know what size Chirp Wheel is best for you?
There are three different size Chirp Wheels. In addition to the ‘gentle’ 12-inch wheel we have, there are also 10-inch and 6-inch options. You can also buy a set of all three!
The 10-inch size can be used in the same way as the 12-inch model and is also a little easier to use if you’re using it against a wall, rather than on the floor. Personally, I prefer to roll on my Chirp Wheel on the floor and the 12-inch model works great for that.
The 6-inch size is described as being for ‘deep tissue’ massage, and great for neck and posture correction. As it is half the diameter of the 12-inch it’s also more portable if you’re planning on traveling with it. Given that it is smaller it is going to give a more intense stretch, which may good for stubborn tight muscles, but also could be a bit too intense, especially if you’re new to stretching and massaging your back.
Aside from the marketing descriptions of what each wheel is best suited for, it’s also worth considering whether you may find the 12-inch wheel, which is what is recommended for most people, tricky to balance on. Assuming no physical restrictions, while it can be a bit tricky the first time you use it, it’s no longer difficult after you’ve become used to it.
It does help to place the wheel and your feet on a flat, non-slip surface, which would ideally be a gym or yoga mat, but also a thick rug or carpet would still be a lot better and more comfortable than a hard floor. Also, if you do slide off the wheel, it would be better not to be on to a hard floor!
Using the Chirp Wheel to relieve my back pain
We have the largest Chirp Wheel, which is 12 inches in diameter and described by the company as ‘gentle’. This size gives the largest overall stretch, which is apparently best for overall pain in the upper and lower back and can also be used to stretch hips and open up your chest.
I like to breathe out while rolling my back from lower back up to shoulders. I find I get a better release of tension on the exhale, and it’s more relaxing, especially when I do this in conjunction with breathing and yoga exercises.
If you have similar back tension to what both Helen and I experience, due to time spent sitting at a computer without always holding the best posture, then you should experience a release of back tension, accompanied with some satisfying ‘clicks’ in the back. It goes without saying, but I’ll say anyway that anyone considering using such a massage tool should of course consider whether you need to consult a professional before using it 😉
I’m quite possibly in love with my Chirp Wheel. I love such things that you can use every day that are so simple and yet do such a good job. Both of us use ours every day before bed, it’s wonderful after a long day, especially if there’s been a heavy day of work or a long intensive run during the day, and it’s nice to think about getting into bed having stretched and relaxed our backs ready for what will hopefully also be a good night’s sleep.
Where to buy the Chirp Wheel
If you’re interested in getting a Chirp Wheel you can buy all three sizes directly from Chirp’s website via the button below.