Stress, injury and inactivity are the common causes of back pain. Muscle tightness in this area also affects our range of motion and sleep quality. Enter the foam roller to the rescue!

This small but effective tool can give you that much-needed relief through self-massage or self-myofascial release. Here’s a list of foam roller back exercises you can do to stretch out those muscle knots.

Foam Rolling Exercises for Upper Back

1. Neck Massage

Soreness due to stress can accumulate in the neck muscles and travel down your upper back. And so, a gentle massage on the neck is one of the most ideal foam roller exercises for back pain. However, keep in mind that this part is a delicate area.

So, make sure to consult a therapist if needed, then apply the right amount of pressure when doing this exercise.

  1. Place the foam roller on the floor, then lie down with the roller on top of your shoulders.
  2. Bend your knees, but keep your feet flat on the floor. Place your hands to your sides.
  3. Now, carefully drift your head towards the floor, letting the roller support your whole neck.
  4. Hold this position for about 10 seconds. Then press your feet and gently push your legs towards your head. You should feel the roller moving over and massaging your neck area.
  5. Continue pressing and releasing your feet. When done, lift your head gently.

2. Thoracic Arches

People who sit most of the time in the office experience neck and upper back pain often. Discomfort also occurs due to poor posture or when you lean and hunch forward a lot. You can resolve these issues through thoracic extensions.

  1. Lie down and position your upper back horizontally onto the foam roller.
  2. Bend your knees, but keep your feet and pelvis flat on the floor. Place your hands behind your head.
  3. Now, slowly dip your head back to the ground, forming an arch with your thoracic spine. Then move your head back up to starting position. Repeat the motion about five times more.

Working out may lead to muscle soreness or pain, too. Use a vibrating foam roller then to massage your body before and after your routine. It should help you perform better and recover faster. Check out this article on how to relieve pain using a vibrating foam roller.

Thoracic Arch and other Foam Roller Back Exercises

3. Shoulder Blade Roll

If you’re looking for foam roller back exercises that can stretch multiple muscles in one go, then add this move to your list. That’s because the shoulder blade roll applies broad pressure to relieve muscle tension from your neck, shoulders and upper back.

  1. Sit on the floor and place the foam roller behind you. Lie on your back, then position the roller horizontally on your shoulder blades.
  2. Bend your knees, but keep your feet flat on the floor. Place your hands behind your head.
  3. Now, press your feet onto the ground and lift your hips, forming a bridge position.
  4. Next, use your feet to move the foam roller between your neck and the middle of your back. You can do about 20 slow passes, but make sure not to go over your lower back.
  5. To target and release tight muscles, you may also angle your body slightly to the side, then continue rolling up and down.

Foam Rolling Exercises for Lower Back

4. Glute Stretches

Foam rolling your lower back is not advisable. That’s because this area doesn’t have ample bone support to protect your internal organs from pressure. So, make sure to keep this in mind when doing foam roller back exercises.

Moreover, pain in the lower back is likely due to nearby muscle groups like your glutes. With proper foam rolling and positioning, you get to massage your butt muscles and stretch your lower back in the process.

  1. Sit on your foam roller horizontally, with your tailbone positioned at the centre. Next, raise your right leg and put your ankle on your left knee.
  2. Lean slightly to the right, with your right arm behind you to support your weight.
  3. Now, slowly roll your gluteal muscle up and down, pausing for a few seconds when you hit a tender spot.
  4. Then switch to the left side and repeat the same motion.

5. Hip Flexor Release

Lower back pain may also originate from your hip flexors. This part, where your leg connects to the pelvic bone, forms tight spots due to our usual activities like walking, climbing stairs, running or cycling. It’s a common cause of muscle fatigue, so it is essential to include this in your list of foam roller back exercises.

  1. Lie face down and position the foam roller under your right hip flexor. Hip flexors are at the front of your upper thighs, right below your pelvis.
  2. Your forearms should be on the floor to support your upper body.
  3. Now, start moving your body forward and back to massage your right hip and pelvis. You can move to an inward or outward angle for a better stretch.
  4. After about 90 seconds, switch to the left hip flexor and repeat the same motion.

Hip Flexor Release and other Foam Roller Back Exercises

6. Sacral Roll

Like the thoracic arch, this one is perfect if your job involves sitting for extended periods. It should greatly help decompress the stress that collects on your lower back.

  1. Start by laying down on the floor and placing the foam roller under your sacrum. It’s the lowest part of your back that is right above your tailbone.
  2. Now, bend your knees and hold the ends of your roller with each hand to keep it in place. Then lift your bent knees.
  3. With your legs together, move them to the right as far as you are comfortable. Your upper body should stay in the middle. Hold this position for a few seconds before moving your legs to the left.
  4. Continue swaying from side to side up to 10 times or as many as needed.

Foam Rolling Frequency

How often should you foam roll your back? If you’re a beginner, choose three to five foam roller back exercises and do them three times a week. You can also opt for a long foam rolling session once a week. Just make sure to hydrate afterwards and not overdo it.

After a month or so, you can progress by foam rolling up to three times each day. Of course, one key to getting the optimum pain relief and recovery is choosing the right roller. You might pick up a thing or two from this vibrating foam roller buying guide and reviews and help you decide.