Back pain can be really troublesome to deal with regardless of how old you are. It can be caused by several things, like bad posture from sitting at a desk too long, strained muscles, or lingering ailments like arthritis or osteoporosis. Of course, visiting a doctor should be the first thing you do, but if the pain in your back isn’t too serious, then you might want to consider doing some exercise to relieve it.
Stretching is great for dealing with back pain, and releasing muscle tension is often the best solution for aching back muscles. You can try normal stretches but if you want a faster and more efficient way, you may want to try using a foam roller.
How Foam Rollers Work
A foam roller is a small tube made of foam generally meant to help you apply pressure to certain points of your body. Its cylindrical shape is long enough to maximize its contact with the broadest parts of your body, like the torso, and its foam layers make sure you don’t hurt yourself.
Foam rollers are safe and convenient pieces of equipment. They help release tension in your muscles by performing exercises that target trigger points or “knots” found in tight muscles, much like how a rolling pin softens up the dough. Just make sure that you’re hitting the right spots and your body weight will do the rest.
These exercises aren’t too difficult to perform and they won’t take too much of your time either. All you need is a good vibrating foam roller, an optional mat, some space and a bit of motivation.
The Best Foam Roller Stretches for Back Pain
Using a foam roller may sound simple but doing it incorrectly may just end up with you hurting yourself. Before using one, it’s important to note that foam roller stretches shouldn’t unnecessarily strain nor cause immense discomfort. Foam rolling for too long may also cause serious injury, so take it easy and make sure to take your time.
Here are five foam roller stretches you can do to help relieve muscle tension on your back:
1. Upper Back Roll
This exercise is meant to release the tension on the area of your upper back and shoulders. Start by laying down your foam roller on your mat horizontally, and then sit down with the soles of your feet firmly planted on the floor.
Next, gently lay down, making sure that the foam roller makes contact with the middle part of your torso. Lastly, place your hands on the back of your head, bend your knees, then use your feet to move your back and start rolling the foam roller towards the back of your neck. Think of the usual sit-up position but with a foam roller on your back.
The surface area of the foam roller should relieve tension across the entire area it’s rolling on. Do this for 10-12 reps before taking a break for maximum effect.
2. Lower Back Stretch
This exercise is meant to loosen up the muscles near the base of your spine, and it doesn’t require much movement. To start, place your roller on your mat horizontally. Sit down in front of it while facing the other direction. Next, slowly lay down, making sure the foam roller is supporting your lower back. Relax your body and stay in that position for 10 seconds, then reset.
Make sure you’re not moving when stretching your lower back as the base of the spine doesn’t have the structure to handle strong pressure, which could lead to injury.
3. Lower Back Twists
This one is a more active lower back exercise that doesn’t put your spinal cord at risk. Once again, lay down your foam roller horizontally and sit on top of it. Next, gently lay down with your back straight and knees bent. Then, lift up one of your knees then bring it to the other side by twisting your hips. Alternate the motion between your knees.
If done properly, you should feel the muscles by your lumbar do most of the work. The foam roller should be holding up your glutes to avoid spinal injury and to make sure that you have the right angles that can hit the right muscle groups while you do the exercise.
4. Overhead Arm Stretches
This exercise is for your upper back, specifically the area around your shoulders. Place your foam roller down vertically, and lay your back down along its length. Bend your knees, make sure your spine is straight and relaxed, then put both of your arms flat on the floor by your sides. Reach past your head with one arm while reaching for your feet with the other, then alternate the motion between arms.
Be sure to do it slowly and that you aren’t feeling any pain to avoid potential injury.
This upper back exercise will target your mid-upper back and shoulders and relieve any stiffness in them. Lie down on the foam roller placed vertically on your mat, bend your knees then brace your arms together in front of your chest into a square shape. Once you’re settled, twist by moving your arms to one side before twisting again in the opposite direction.
Make sure your head is following your arms while you move and that your core is lightly engaged to alleviate some pressure on your spine.
Things to Keep in Mind
Foam rollers are great for relieving muscle tension but you may end up injuring yourself if the root of your back problem lies in your bones. Before trying out these exercises to treat back pain, make sure to have a doctor check you up first for any potentially serious causes of your discomfort.
If the doctor gives you the green light, you may want to consider buying a vibrating foam roller. While it’s similar to a normal one, the vibrations can yield better results by providing increased blood circulation or better muscle tension relief.