Benefits of Foam Rolling Upper Back

A great many of us have jobs that require sitting in front of a computer or driving for 6-8 hrs a day. It is inevitable that most of us will at some point experience upper back pain as a result. When working from a sitting position, one needs to focus on posture – straight back, relaxed shoulders, erect neck and computer at eye level. In doing so, we can help prevent a curved spine and forward neck. However, working on keeping a straight back can cause our back muscles to stiffen up and contract. These contractions can cause trigger points and pain over time, especially adjacent to the shoulder blades, that must be eliminated to maintain a healthy back. In this article, I will show you how to fix upper back pain using a foam roller. This exercise works to relieve pain whether you have a sore back after lifting weights or you have a tight back from prolonged sitting.

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  1. Sitting on the floor, place the foam roller behind you and lie back on it, with the roller even with your shoulder blades.
  2. Raise your butt so that you are supported only by the foam roller and your feet.
  3. Begin to roll along your upper back, using your hips to power you back and forth. You may hear some pops along your spine. This is your spine realigning, which is a good thing, as long as the pops are not painful.
  4. Foam Rolling Trick: Typically, upper back pain, whether from working out or sitting for a long period of time, occurs under the shoulder blades. To work on these trigger points, try squeezing your elbows up in front of your face. This will move the shoulder blades out of the way and allow you to roll out the trigger points in that area.

It is important to do this exercise regularly. If you don’t, trigger points and deposits can build up over time, making it more difficult to work them out. Foam rolling the back can also help to realign the back and circulate nutrients and oxygen through the back muscles and along the vertebrae.

THE SECRET YOUR MASSAGE THERAPIST DOESN’T WANT YOU TO KNOW: Often times, it is thought that massage therapy is the solution for muscle pain. The problem is, massage therapy is not cheap.  $70 for a one-hour session is pretty typical. But you can use a foam roller to do the same work of a massage therapist. The cost saving is immense, and you don’t even need to leave the house!

Recapping Benefits of Foam Rolling the Back

  • Reduce tightness and relieve pain
  • Work out painful mineral deposits
  • Improve posture
  • Realign spine

WARNING: Do not foam roll your lower back. It is safe to foam roller the upper back since your rib cage protects the spine. But foam rolling your lower back can put excessive pressure on the spine and can cause more harm than good. If you have lower back pain, the cause may actually be tight hip flexors. Check out my other article to learn how foam rolling can relax tight hip flexors and reduce lower back pain.

 

How to Relax and Stretch Tight Hip Flexors

I have always had a bad habit of sleeping in a fetal position. My massage therapist used to tell me with a finger wag, “Don’t do that!” Well, she was right, but it is the only way I can sleep comfortably.  One reason why it’s not a good idea to sleep in a fetal position is that it tightens your hip flexor muscle groups, which can then affect your lower back and posture.

About two times a week, I wake up with tight hip flexors, which resonates to my quadriceps, and affects my back. The hip flexors are several muscle groups that connect your pelvis and abdomen to your thigh bone. They help raise your knees and lower your abdomen. Sprinters put a lot of strain on these muscle groups when they rapidly pull their knees to their abdomens, and soccer (or futbol) players do the same when they powerfully kick the ball. But the most common person that may suffer from tight hip flexors is the desk jockey who sits in a chair for eight hours a day. When you have tight hip flexors, it pulls in your abdomen towards your quadriceps, which then pulls in your lower back towards your abdomen. This can cause lower back pain and loss of free mobility.

Anterior Hip Muscles 2.PNG
By Beth oharaOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=545389

Foam rolling the hip flexors is a very effective way to alleviate the tightness. When I wake up with tightness in this area, I use the 13″ Honeycomb Foam Roller to roll out the multiple muscle groups, and I honestly can say it feels heavenly. Here’s how to do it:

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1. Get on all fours with your knees on the floor
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2. Place the foam roller in front of one of your knees; lower your elbows to the floor and move out your other knee so it is out of the way of the roller
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4. Lower your upper quad onto the roller and begin to roll back and forth
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5. Roll out the hip flexor groups one by one, adjusting your position to put pressure on different groups
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6. Adjust the pressure as needed by picking your weight up or lowering your weight down using your elbows; use this opportunity to extend the roll to your quadriceps

After loosening up the muscle groups using the foam roller, it is a good idea to stretch them out. This stretch is called the runners lunge. Here’s how to do it:

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1. Find a wall or stationary object that you can push on and stabilize yourself with 2. Stand facing the wall, with about one feet between your toes and the wall 3. Placing your hands on the wall to stabilize yourself, step one leg way back to get in a lunge position

You should feel a nice stretch on your hip flexors. Moving your bent knee forward will increase the stretch, and raising the heel of your back leg also helps to increase the stretch on the hip flexors.

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A simpler version of the stretch that you can do just about anywhere, anytime.

Use these exercises to relax your tight hip flexors when they are causing discomfort. Remember, to help keep the discomfort away, foam roll and stretch regularly. This will keep the muscles relaxed, keep the fascia free of restrictions, and increase the flow of blood, oxygen, and nutrients to your muscle fibers.

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Peace of mind, Peace of Muscle

Check out my article Case Study: Stretching vs Foam Rolling – Relaxing Tight Hamstrings, Specifically the Semimembranosus and Semitendinosus Groups to get some practical insights on hamstring pain and injuries.

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