If you spend most of your day sitting at a desk or if you partake in a daily exercise program, there is a high chance that you have experienced some sort of back pain at one point or another. This quick foam roller fix can help relieve tightness.
Whether your back pain is chronic (long-term) or acute (short-term), back pain can be debilitating and interfere with your daily routine, your sleep, or even your job.
One way that we can help with back pain is through the use of myofascial release (1). Myofascial release helps to relax tight muscles, improve blood and lymphatic circulation, and stimulate a stretch reflex in skeletal muscle.
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Foam rolling, also known as self-myofascial release (SMR), can be done just about anywhere and has a variety of benefits. It can be used daily to release tight muscles and knots after exercise (2) or a long day of sitting at the office. It can also be used after an injury to help release scar tissue that has grown around the area of injury.
To begin foam rolling, we recommend getting a long, medium-softness foam roller. It is important to roll slowly and to roll around the areas of direct pain. When you’re ready, use this 10-minute foam roller fix for back pain.
10-Minute Foam Rolling for Back Pain
The first portion of this routine will alleviate pain and tightness in the lower back. When we spend a lot of time sitting, our hip flexors and abdominal muscles get tight and our glutes become weak. This causes strain on the lower back, which is directly connected to our deepest hip flexor, the psoas.
Supported Bridge | 30 sec
This stretch helps to open up the lower back and stretch out the abdominal muscles.
- Begin sitting in front of the foam roller so that it is horizontal behind your lower back.
- Place your hands on the floor behind the foam roller. Bend your elbows to begin to lower yourself back onto the foam roller. Your butt should stay on the ground while your lower back rests on the foam roller.
- Continue to lower yourself down until your shoulders are on the ground. Stretch your arms out long to the sides with your palms facing up. Rest here for 30 seconds and then press yourself back up to a seat.
Hip Flexor Release | 30 sec per side
This stretch releases the hip flexors.
- To begin this foam roller fix, slide the foam roller horizontally underneath your sacrum. Bend your knees and place your feet on the ground.
- Pick up your right foot and draw your right knee in towards your chest, interlacing your hands around the front of the knee. Straighten your left leg out in front of you. Keep both feet flexed and active.
- Hold for 30 seconds, and then release by placing your right foot back on the ground. Bend your left leg and place your left foot on the ground. Switch sides.
Lower Back Massage | 30 sec
This stretch releases the lower back and feels like a nice massage.
- Start with the foam roller horizontally underneath your sacrum. Bend your knees and place your feet on the ground.
- Engage your core and draw both knees in towards your chest. Keep your hands on both shins and rock your weight to the right, lifting the left side of your lower back off the foam roller. Hold for a few seconds and then slowly rock to the left side.
- Continue slowly rocking side to side to massage your lower back for 30 seconds.
Supported Twists | 30 sec per side
This foam roller fix stretches the hip flexors and lower back, and helps increase spinal rotation.
- To begin, keep the foam roller horizontally underneath your sacrum. Bend both knees and place your feet on the ground.
- Draw your right knee into your chest and straighten your left leg out in front of you. Keep both feet flexed.
- Straighten your right arm out to the right side with your palm facing down. Place your left hand on the outside of your right knee. On an exhale, use your left hand to draw your right knee across your body into a twist. Hold for 30 seconds, then come back to center. Repeat on the other side.
The second portion of this routine will help to alleviate muscle tightness and pain through the upper back. When we spend a lot of time sitting, we find ourselves with tight chests, rounded shoulders, tight traps and weak rhomboids. At the same time, when we exercise often, our chest muscles can get tight and we can develop knots in the upper back and neck. These exercises will stretch the chest, shoulders, lats, and rhomboids, and massage out knots in the upper back.
Lie down on the foam roller with it going up and down your spine for the remainder of the routine.
Cactus Arms | 15 reps
This foam roller fix stretches the chest and the front of the shoulders.
- Start by lying on the foam roller so that it goes vertically up and down your spine. It should support your head and your hips. Draw your lower belly in and press your lower back into the foam roller. Keep a slight tuck of your chin so that your neck is long.
- Take your arms out to the sides and bend your elbows to 90-degree angles so that your elbows are on the floor and your fingertips are pointing up towards the ceiling. Keep in mind that if you have tight chest muscles, it may be challenging to keep your elbows on the ground.
- Make sure to keep your elbows on the ground and to have them bent at 90 degrees the whole time. Take a deep breath in. Then on your exhale, allow your forearms to fall back so that the top of your forearms and hands fall towards the ground. Pause for a moment to feel the stretch through your chest. Inhale to bring your arms back to the starting position. Repeat for 15 repetitions.
Snow Angels | 15 reps
This stretch helps to increase range of motion in the shoulders and to massage out knots in the rhomboids.
- Stay on the foam roller so that it is going vertically up and down your spine. Begin with your arms down alongside your body with your palms facing up.
- Keep your fingertips brushing the ground as you inhale and slowly sweep your straight arms over your head. Pause for a moment at the top to feel the stretch through your chest and shoulders.
- Exhale to slowly sweep your arms back down by your sides. Repeat for 15 repetitions.
Overhead Reach | 20 reps
This stretches the lats and the shoulders.
- Begin with your arms down alongside your body with your palms facing in.
- Extend your right arm over your head and reach through your fingertips. At the same time, keep your left hand down by your side and reach your left fingertips towards your feet.
- Hold for a moment to feel the stretch through your shoulders and lats, then switch sides. Repeat for 20 repetitions.
Reach to the Sky | 20 reps
This foam roller fix stretches the lats and massages out knots in the upper back.
- Start by bending your elbows to 45-degree angles and placing them on the floor. Spread your fingers wide so that they are extended towards the ceiling.
- Firmly press your left elbow into the floor as your reach your right arm straight up towards the ceiling. Squeeze your left shoulder blade down as your feel your right shoulder blade stretch.
- Hold for a moment and then switch sides by bending your right elbow and straightening the left arm up. Repeat for 20 repetitions.
Prayer Angels | 15 reps
This foam roller fix stretches the shoulders and release knots in the rhomboids and trapezius muscles.
- To begin, bend your elbows and press your forearms and palms together above your chest.
- Keep your elbows together as long as you can while your take your fingertips to the ground behind your head. Once your fingertips touch the ground, separate your forearms and sweep your arms out and down to your sides.
- Bring the palms and forearms back together over your chest, and then repeat for 15 repetitions.
Chest Release | 30 sec
This stretch releases the tight muscles of the chest and shoulders.
- Remain lying on the foam roller with your lower belly engaged.
- Take your arms straight out the sides with your wrists in line with your shoulders. Turn your palms to face up.
- Close your eyes to relax and hold for one minute. When you are done, slowly roll off the foam roller and lie down flat on the floor for 30 seconds to allow your spine to neutralize.
(Your Next Workout: 9 Easy Stretches to Release Lower Back and Hip Pain)