The Most Effective Stretches and Exercises for Back Pain

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.

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