The Most Effective Stretches and Exercises for Back Pain

foam-rolling-back-stretches

Most people have 8-hour shifts they spend sitting. We come back from work and what do we do?

We sit again. This lifestyle has led to an increase in the number of people experiencing back pain and moreover, younger people experiencing back pain. 

Luckily, medicine, workouts and technology are all advancing rapidly, so there are many methods to help you get rid of your back pain. One of them is by doing simple foam rolling.

More about what that is, how you can use it and some other tips to get rid of back pain can be found below.

Can you foam roll your lower back?

Foam rolling has become very popular in recent years. It’s a simple, but yet effective way to get rid of lower back pain, hamstring pain, lats pain, and other muscle pain.

If you’re sitting for long periods of time during the day, you will most likely experience tightness in the lower back and hip area, if you already aren’t experiencing it.

One way to alleviate this pain and loosen the tightness you feel is by foam rolling your lower back. 

How do you use a foam roller for the lower back?

Using a foam roller for your lower back is pretty easy. All you need to do is:

  1. Sit on the foam roller with your behind while supporting your weight with your palms and feet
  2. By using your arms and legs, start rocking yourself back and forth to massage your lower back with the foam roller
  3. When you find a hotspot (an area that feels tight), keep massaging it 

This is a simple massage exercise that will loosen your lower back muscles and help you feel less tight or reduce any pain you may be feeling. 

How do you crack your lower back with a foam roller?

When you’re cracking your back, you’re actually adjusting your spine which will loosen it up and help you become more mobile and flexible.

Foam roller back stretches are one of the best ways to make your spine align correctly and crack your lower back. To do it: 

  1. Place your foam roller horizontally under your upper back
  2. Bend your knees with your feet against the ground (your butt should be slightly off the floor due to the foam roller)
  3. Cross your arms on your chest
  4. Start rolling up and down slowly. You should feel your lower back and cracking while doing it
  5. Keep rolling back and forth for 1 minute 

When and how often should I foam roll?

It’s recommended to foam roll 3 to 4 times a week for around 10 to 15 minutes, regardless of your profession and exercising routine.

It’s a good way to stretch your muscles and prevent them from going dormant, which can later impair your mobility.

If you’re an athlete or have a job that requires you to sit for a longer period of time during the day, foam rolling is that much more recommended for you.

As long as your body feels good and you don’t feel any pain by doing it, you can foam roll every day.

The more you foam roll, the stronger your muscles will be, and you will experience less pain.

Does foam rolling reduce cellulite?

Foam rolling is effective against cellulite and the prevention of it.

If your fascia is weak, fat goes through it which causes lumpy marks to appear on the surface of our skin, better known as cellulite.

By foam rolling, you help your fascia (cells connecting all tissues in our bodies) strengthen so fat won’t be able to protrude through it and cause cellulite to form.

So, when you foam roll against your skin, you flatten the fat under it and “return” it into your body, so your skin will look smoother and your body thinner.

Can foam rolling help lose weight?

Foam rolling benefits your muscles as it promotes healthy blood flow through them.

Having greater blood flow will help your body break down the fats easier and burn calories faster, which will ultimately help you lose weight.

What should you not foam roll?

If you believe you’ve torn a muscle, don’t foam roll it.

Make sure to get it checked by a doctor before you start doing any home remedies, or you may just make it worse. 

Additionally, don’t use your foam roller over small joints such as your elbows, knees, and ankles as it may bruise them.

When you foam roll your legs, avoid these areas by foam rolling your legs in sections. 

Why does pressing sore muscles feel good?

It seems that putting pressure on sore muscles is enjoyable for most people, but have you thought about why that is? Well, the answer can be found in two things: endorphins and fascia. 

Endorphins are hormones in our bodies that interact with other receptors to transmit our bodies’ perception of pain.

It’s found in opiates and morphine, which tell you that it’s used to minimize the feeling of pain.

Fascia, on the other hand, are the thin layers of cells covering our whole bodies.

Because they are intertwined like sweater threads, if one of them gets tangled, the other ones can loosen up.

Putting pressure against your sore muscles helps your fascia untangle and get stronger which will make you feel more relaxed and flexible.

Stretches

Foam rolling is good for the muscles because of something called the self-myofascial release (SMR) technique.

It happens when you foam roll your muscles and can help relieve muscle tightness, soreness, and inflammation.

Following are a few foam rolling stretches you can do at home to relax your muscles.

Foam rolling upper back

  1. Lay down on the floor with the foam roller beneath you at the mid to upper back area
  2. Bend your knees with your feet against the ground, knees apart
  3. Cross your arms on your chest
  4. Touch the ground with the tip of your head
  5. Slowly lean to the side at around a 30-45 degree almost to the point before your shoulder blade will touch the floor
  6. Keep this position for 30 to 60 seconds 
  7. Repeat 3 to 4 times 

 

Foam rolling hip flexors

  1. Lay down on your stomach with your foam roller placed below your hip 
  2. Bend your right leg with your knee at around a 90-degree angle
  3. Place your palms on the floor in front of you to support your weight 
  4. Extend your left leg behind with your toes pointing backwards 
  5. Slowly roll back and forth and from left to right to cover the whole hip area
  6. When you find a trigger point, focus on that area for 10 seconds
  7. Do this for 20 to 30 seconds and repeat on the other side

 

Foam rolling the glutes

  1. Sit with your butt on your foam roller
  2. Place your palms on the ground behind you and your feet down forward to support your weight
  3. Cross your left ankle over your right knee
  4. Start rolling back and forth with the help of your hands and legs

 

Core Strengthening

  1. Get down in plank position with your palms against the foam roller. Make sure your hands are in line with your shoulders 
  2. Hop to open and close your feet on your toes
  3. Keep your knees bent when you land
  4. Increase speed and intensity to engage your core more

 

Foam rolling quadriceps

  1. Lay down on the ground with the foam roller position beneath your quadriceps (just above your knee)
  2. Place your elbows on the ground with your palms facing the floor
  3. Use your forearms to roll back and forth slowly, while your weight is pushing on the foam roller
  4. When you find a trigger point, focus on that area for 10 seconds
  5. Do this for 30 to 45 seconds

 

Psoas Release 

  1. Lay down on the foam roller with your outer hip on it
  2. Put your elbow on the floor in line with your shoulder
  3. Keep your legs on the ground
  4. Use your supporting arm and legs to move up and down and on the sides to find a trigger point
  5. When you find a trigger point, focus on that area for 10 seconds
  6. Do this for around 30 seconds then repeat with the other side

 

Thoracic Spine Stretch

  1. Lay down on your back with your foam roller placed horizontally on your mid to upper back 
  2. Bend your legs at your knees, your feet facing the ground
  3. Place your arms beneath your head or stretched above it
  4. Use your legs to push yourself up and down along your spine with your lower back slightly above the ground
  5. If you find a trigger point, focus on that area
  6. Keep doing it as long as it feels good. You might hear some spine cracking, that is good as well

 

Lat Lengthener

  1. Lay on your right side and place the foam roller under your lat
  2. Maintain your right leg straight and bend your left one to a position that feels comfortable to you
  3. Roll the foam back and forth from your lower back to your underarm as slowly as possible
  4. Keep rolling for 1 minute and repeat with the other side

 

Pectoral Stretch

  1. Lay down on your back with your foam roller placed vertically on your spine
  2. Bend your legs at your knees at around a 90-degree angle, your feet facing the ground
  3. Stretch your arms to the side until you feel your chest muscles stretching
  4. If you want, you can place one palm on your chest, then the other 

 

Foam rolling calves

  1. Sit down on the ground and place your foam roller beneath your right leg calf
  2. Support your body’s weight with the help of your hands and left leg
  3. Start sweeping up and down the calf by using your hands and legs. Turn your leg to the inner and outer side to cover the whole calf
  4. If you don’t feel enough pressure, you can place your left leg above your right one to increase pressure on the calf 

 

Foam rolling hamstrings

  1. Sit on the ground and place your foam roller under your thigh
  2. Place your palms on the ground behind you to support the weight of your body
  3. Slowly roll back and forth to feel the area where it feels the tightest 
  4. Once you’ve found the sensitive spot, keep it pressured for around 30 seconds

 

Foam rolling shoulders

  1. Lay down on your back with your foam roller placed horizontally beneath your shoulders
  2. Lift your body weight by using your feet
  3. Roll up and down to massage your shoulders 
  4. If you find a trigger point, focus on that area
  5. Keep doing it as long as it feels good. 

 

Foam rolling neck

  1. Lay down on your back with your foam roller placed vertically on your spine, right up to your skull
  2. Bend your legs at your knees at around a 90-degree angle, your feet facing the ground
  3. Lift your arms and palms slightly off the ground, elbows bent upwards on a 90-degree angle
  4. Turn your head to the right and to the left
  5. Turn your head 8 times on each side

 

Safety tips for foam rolling

Foam rolling is generally safe to do and beneficial for the whole muscle structure in our bodies.

However, if you have an injury, especially a serious one such as a muscle tear or break, avoid using foam rolling unless your doctor has recommended it. 

Additionally, don’t use your foam roller over small joints such as your elbows, knees, and ankles as it may bruise them.

So, when you foam roll your legs, avoid these areas by foam rolling them in sections. 

Conclusion

There are a lot of different foam rollers out there – smooth rollers, textured foam rollers, foam covered massage sticks or foam massage balls.

All of them can do wonders for your muscles and help you become more flexible and mobile than ever. 

It’s especially recommended to use a foam roller if you’re an athlete, do regular exercises, sit for long periods during the day or generally feel some tension in your muscles.

It will be a great and healthy addition to your daily routine.

How to Treat a Pinched Nerve

Having a pinched nerve isn’t something that most people realize they have when experiencing pain in a certain area of their body.

That’s because the symptoms are the same as chronic pain or a strained muscle and many tend to blame it on exhaustion, lack of rest, lack of movement, not realizing that they are probably experiencing a pinched nerve, not the regular back pain.

But there’s one major thing a pinched nerve and chronic back pain has in common – the pain is definitely excruciating.

A pinched nerve can be caused by multiple things such as injuries, chronic conditions or irregular movements, but it can also be treated in multiple ways.

The main thing is to do something about it because if it’s left untreated it can leave permanent damage to the area and go as far as disabling someone permanently and take their freedom of movement.

To understand better the causes, symptoms, and remedies for a pinched nerve, continue reading below.


What is a Pinched Nerve?

A pinched nerve is a common pain many experience during the course of their life.

It happens when the surrounding tissues of a nerve (such as bones, muscles, cartilage, tendons) put too much pressure on a nerve which causes a certain reaction that can range from minor tingling and numbness to weakness and pain in the area where the nerve is pressured.

While a pinched nerve can happen in any part of the body, the most vulnerable nerves are those that pass through narrow places and the ones that don’t have a soft tissue around them for protection.

These are mostly the nerves in your back (spine), shoulders and legs, which are the most frequent sufferers of a pinched nerve.


Pinched Nerve Symptoms

The severity and range of symptoms can range from one person to another, but mostly revolve around the following:

  • Tingling
  • burning
  • numbness
  • pain
  • muscle weakness

If you have a pinched nerve, these symptoms can worsen if you’re laying down for a longer period (i.e. when sleeping or resting).

Other symptoms can include a stinging pain in some area of the back, needles or general discomfort in the area of the pinched nerve.


What Causes a Pinched Nerve?

As we previously mentioned, pinched nerves are a result of some tissue pressing on the nerve.

Most commonly, this pressure is caused by lack of motion or repetitive motion that creates a pressure in the area of the nerve, which causes the nerve to become inflamed and overtime irritated and finally, damaged and painful.

There are some conditions that put people in the higher risk group of experiencing pain caused by a pinched group, such as:

  • Being overweight
  • Gender (women are more prone to experiencing a pinched nerve)
  • Pregnancy
  • Repetitive strenuous activities
  • Arthritis
  • Diabetes

There are many factors that can have a major influence on your nerve health, but it can also be caused by an injury, straining or spraining, irregular movements and many other things.

All in all, it’s a rather unpredictable thing that you can’t see coming, but can work towards reducing the risk of getting it.


Pinched Nerve in Lower Back

Pinched Nerve in Back Symptoms

A pinched nerve in the lower back is most often caused by the spinal discs putting pressure on some of the nerves that go through the spinal cord.

It can also be caused by an inflamed spinal root that exits the spine.

The most common cause of a pinched nerve is a degenerative spine which happens mostly because of age and the additional pressure caused by the stress placed on it for everyday movement and body weight, which results in:

  • The discs that cushion the spine became brittle and rupture
  • The facet joints that hinge the vertebrae became arthritic
  • You developed bone spurs
  • The vertebrae became misaligned

The common symptoms of a pinched nerve in the back are more or less same as the other types of pinched nerves, with the fact that, of course, the sensations are felt in the lower back area.

  • Tingling
  • burning
  • numbness
  • pain
  • muscle weakness
  • weakness in the leg

Pinched Nerve in Back Treatment

11 Home remedies for a pinched nerve

There are thousands of medications intended to eliminate the pain caused by a pinched nerve, but they can cost up to a hundred dollars for just one bottle. There are other methods that promise to do wonders in a few minutes, which result in nothing more than you wasting your precious time and money.

Instead of visiting these expensive massages, taking harmful medications or going under dangerous surgeries, you can try to do some things at home that could help you ease the pain and solve your pinched nerve issue.

Stretch

Stretching for a few minutes every day can relieve any pressure on your nerve and alleviate the pain you feel caused by the pressure on the nerve.

And not only that, but it will also help prevent the appearance of a pinched nerve.

Do note that you don’t need to do overly hard stretches. Some simple ones do the trick, so if you start feeling pain while stretching in any area, ease up on the stretch and do something easier.

Once you’ve got into it, you can enhance the exercises to strengthen your muscles, after a consultation with a physician, of course.

A great idea would be to start doing yoga because many of the yoga poses help strengthen your muscles and relax the area around the nerves.

This will further reduce the risk of you getting a pinched nerve at any point in your life.

Adjust your posture

Bad posture is a major cause of many back problems, including pinched nerves. Your neck supports the weight of your head, and if you’re holding it in a position that strains its function and pressures it, your nerves will get pressed on and get pinched.

Correcting your posture and sitting straight up loosens your spinal discs, allowing the nerves to function properly, without being strained or pressured too much.

Holding a right posture is perfect for both preventing and fixing nerve problems.

One thing you can do is to hold your head straight so its weight can be distributed evenly throughout your spine.

Another thing is if you’re working on a pc, or have a job where you have to lean your head forward, to ask if it’s possible to have an adjustment to your workplace so you can avoid bending your head.

And finally, avoid sleeping on your stomach because by sleeping like that, you put unnecessary strain on your head.

Take rest

Most of our body’s injuries are solved by resting.

Many sports or strenuous activities like tennis, football, hockey, and baseball can cause the pinched nerve, so avoiding these and resting as much as possible is the best course of action.

That is until the symptoms start disappearing and you’re able to move the part of your body that was previously aching.

Make sure that while you’re resting, you’re in a comfortable position and have an ergonomic bed and pillow that support your body in a healthy way.

Use ice

The most common go-to remedy for a pinched nerve is the good old ice.

It’s well known to people as an effective cure for swelling and inflammation, making it perfect to use to reduce any of these in the area of the pinched nerve.

You can wrap a towel around an ice pack and place it on the area of the pinched nerve, holding it with gentle pressure for around 15 minutes a few times during the day.

Elevate your legs

If you have a pinched nerve in the area of your lower back, elevating your legs with a 90-degree bend in the hips and knees can help alleviate the pain.

This will reduce the tension in your spine and help it

Apply heat

I know that it might be confusing that we list both ice and heat as treatments for a pinched nerve, but both are equally good to relax the area and minimize pain.

As previously mentioned, the pain from your pinched nerve might be caused by some muscle pressuring on it.

If you believe this is the case with your pain, you can apply heat on the area to relax the muscle around your painful nerve.

It will not only loosen up the spot but will also promote blood flow to the area, helping it heal faster.

Besides using a pre-purchased heating pad, you can make your own heat pad at home (a bottle filled with warm liquid or a heated cloth) and use it for 10 to 15 minutes 2 or 3 times a day.

Sleep more

Sleeping is the best way to allow your body to heal itself.

When you’re sleeping, every cell in your body regenerates, making you healthier and stronger.

This also includes the nerves that go through your whole body that need to rest after working hard throughout the day.

If you’re experiencing a pinched nerve, make sure to sleep for a minimum of 8 hours a day to allow your body to fully recover.

It will help your body fight off any inflammation of pain more easily and make it stronger for all day to day functions.

You can sleep with a neck brace that will hold your neck in place and minimize the unnecessary movements.

And as I mentioned before, avoid sleeping on your stomach because it puts additional pressure on your neck and back.

Massage

Gently massaging the painful spot and around it will help your muscles and cartilage relax, relieving the pressure they put on the nerve, thus easing your pain and discomfort.

But, if the spot is too sensitive, wait for it to calm a bit and then try massaging it.

Avoid deep tissue massages, because these might put additional pressure on the already pinched nerve, making your situation even worse than before.

Change your pillow and mattress

Believe it or not, your pillow and mattress can be the cause of the pressure in your spine.

If they aren’t ergonomic and don’t support your body in the right way, your nerves will be pressed upon during your sleep, causing you to wake up with discomfort and pain.

Having the right sleeping posture lets your body’s muscles and bones relax and go back to their right position, minimizing the possibility of them pressuring a nerve and causing any pain during your sleep.

Consume food rich with Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids have been known to help with inflammation, but in recent studies, it has shown pain-relieving effects as well.

The most common source of omega-3 fatty acids is fish oil, but it can also be found in everyday foods such as nuts, seeds, seafood, oils made from plants (flax, soy, canola, etc.).

You can implement these ingredients in your food more often if you’re experiencing pain from a pinched nerve to reduce the inflamed spot and pain.

Change your lifestyle

Even if you don’t notice it, many of your lifestyle choices have a major impact on your overall health.

For example, being overweight leads to more pressure being placed on your lower back which can lead to your bones pressing on the nerves, creating a pinched nerve which will cause you pain.

Lack of exercise is another big factor in rapidly deteriorating spine health. By being inactive, your muscles and bones are losing their strength, so when they start their regular function, they’re pressuring your nerves, causing them to get irritated, inflamed and painful.


When to See a Doctor

Pain caused by a pinched nerve usually goes away with time or can be treated with simple home remedies.

But, if the pain persists and doesn’t reduce in a few days, then you should contact a doctor.

Even if it seems like a pinched nerve, the pain might be caused by something more severe that requires professional treatment and medications.

Another reason to contact a doctor is if the pain keeps increasing despite treating the area.

If you’ve tried all the traditional healing methods and nothing seems to be working, but your pain keeps dragging on and even increasing, then the case is definitely something else than a pinched nerve, which requires a doctor looking into it.

And finally, the most important situation that requires medical attention is if you start feeling a lack of sensation in your back or leg or focal weakness (inability to hold your weight).

These are usually symptoms of something more severe that requires medical attention.


My Back Pain Relief 4 Life

While looking into possible treatments for back pain and pinched nerves in the back, I found a program with 8, simple 2-minute movements that do wonder for any type of back pain.

The program is called My Back Pain Relief 4 Life, and by reading reviews, I noticed it has helped a tremendous amount of people, not only for their back pain but their overall physical health.

The exercises are very simple and require only a pillow/towel and a chair to do.

Each exercise is done for 2 minutes, taking only 16 minutes in total, which is literally no time in exchange for the wonders it will do.

Besides, the program was more than affordable and came with fantastic additional bonuses that teach you how to lead a healthy lifestyle.

Click here to learn more.


Conclusion

The damage caused by a pinched nerve is usually temporary, but it can be long-lasting.

To avoid this, proper measures should be taken not only to heal it but also prevent it from happening.

The best thing you can do is stay active and lead a healthy lifestyle, but if you’re the busy bee that rarely finds time for their health, the home remedies and the program I recommended will be the ideal thing to fight away back pain and remain as healthy as possible.

But keep in mind to track the way your body reacts to everything you do. If you start experiencing more pain or want to start with physical therapy, first consult your doctor.

Having a professional advise you on the best course of action is always a good idea.

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