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In today’s day and age tension headaches and back pain are common occurrences.
Whether it’s from heavy weight lifting, a stressful job, or prolonged sitting, it happens, and it sucks.
But let’s be honest, most of us just fight through it and never actually look for ways to fix this pain.
However, you can mitigate it quickly by using stretch and release techniques.
That’s why in this article I am going to show you 10 amazing foam roller upper back exercises.
Along with the specific areas that each one is designed to target.
This way you can figure out which exercise is right for you and achieve that oh-so-wonderful pain relief!
Table of Contents
Benefits of Foam Rolling: How It Can Help You Relax
Foam rolling is an effective and simple way to increase muscle flexibility and reduce stiffness in your upper back, while also stimulating blood flow which can help promote healing.
It is essentially a form of self-myofascial release (SMR) that uses equipment such as foam rollers or foam massage balls to apply pressure to muscle and soft tissue.
SMR offers a variety of other benefits such as improving mobility, promoting better posture, and range of motion, and even reducing stress and tension.
Ultimately, this will improve your sleep and overall well-being.
10 Foam Roller Upper Back Exercises
1. Thoracic Spine Extensions
- Lay down with the foam roller horizontally under your upper spine.
- With your knees bent and feet flat, place both hands on the back of your head for neck support.
- Brace your core.
- Begin lowering your head and elbows toward the floor while keeping your butt on the ground.
- Stop once you feel a nice stretch and hold it for 1-3 seconds.
- Then, slowly raise back up to the starting position and repeat for 5 reps.
Thoracic spine extensions are important for maintaining good posture and spinal health.
When done regularly, this move can reduce pain, stiffness, and tightness in the neck, shoulders, and upper back.
2. Upper Back Roll
- Lay with the roller perpendicular to your mid back.
- Grasp the back of your head and lift your hips off the ground, into a bridge position.
- Slowly roll upwards until the foam roller reaches the top of your shoulder blades.
- Reverse back down, stopping when the foam roller is over where your rib cage ends.
The upper back roll is used to help relax and stretch the muscles in your shoulder blades, rhomboids, and traps.
It’s especially useful for those who spend a lot of time hunched over desks or computers since it helps to relieve tightness in the posterior chain of your upper body.
3. Open Book
- Lay down on your right side with your left knee bent on the foam roller and your bottom leg straight.
- Extend your right arm in front of you on the floor with your palm facing up.
- Then, extend your left arm and begin rotating your upper body towards the left side.
- Making sure not to allow your right hand or legs to move.
- Rotate as far as you can while taking deep breaths.
- Reverse the motion back to the starting position.
- Repeat for 5-10 reps and switch sides.
The open-book stretch is used to practice thoracic spine rotation.
This helps your back rotate more easily when turning it from side to side.
4. Child’s Pose Slide
- Bend your knees and press your toes into the ground with your buttocks over your heels.
- Place your hands on the roller horizontally and use it to move your torso forward, while keeping your arms straight.
- Reach as far as you can into the child’s pose and hold for 10-30 seconds.
The child’s pose using a foam roller can be an effective way to stretch the lats, as well as provide lower back extension and improved shoulder mobility.
Focus on breathing deeply and consciously to ensure that your muscles are receiving ample oxygenation during the exercise.
5. Vertical Scapular Slides
- Begin in the prone position with your arms extended in front of you to form a y-shape.
- Keep your forearms resting on the foam roller.
- Pull your core in toward your spine.
- From here, roll your forearms forward to move your scapula up towards your neck.
- Then, roll your forearms back down to achieve downward scapula rotation.
- Repeat this motion for 2-3 sets of 5-10 reps.
Scapular slides help to open and mobilize the lumbar region of the spine.
Additionally, having good scapula control may lead to improved gym performance by increasing mobility for dynamic movements.
6. Neck Rolls
- Lay on your back with the foam roller directly under your neck.
- Now all you’re gonna do is turn your neck so that your head is facing the right side.
- Rotate back to the starting point facing forward (or looking at the ceiling since you’re lying down).
- Then, turn to the left side.
- Repeat this sequence for an even amount of reps on both sides, making sure to reset to the forward-facing position each time.
These neck foam rolls act as a form of self-release, providing relief from muscle tension and helping to relax your upper back and shoulders.
Regular performance of this exercise can reduce or eliminate headaches and upper back pain associated with poor posture.
7. Lat Rolls
- Lay on either side and raise your bottom arm so you can place the foam roller under your armpit.
- Use your top hand and legs to roll up and down in this area until you find any tightness.
- Once you find a pain point hold the foam roller on this spot for 30 seconds.
- Continue this process until you hit each point before switching sides.
Lat rolls are a great way to provide relief for your latissimus dorsi.
These winged-shaped muscles cover a large portion of the back.
They are primarily responsible for adduction and extension of the arms as well as internal rotation of the shoulder.
8. Snow Angels
- Lay facing upwards, with the foam roller rested vertically under your back, head, and butt.
- Place your hands by your sides, palms facing up, and feet flat on the floor.
- Keeping your hands in contact with the turf, begin raising them out to your sides until they are perpendicular to your body.
- Then, slowly return them to the starting position and repeat for reps.
Snow angels are a great way to increase shoulder mobility and open up your chest.
The motion of lifting your arms out, and then guiding them back down is both gentle and effective.
This can also be helpful in relieving strain in the neck and upper back.
9. Thoracic Paraspinals
- Lay with the foam roller on your mid back, with feet flat, knees bent, and butt pressed against the floor.
- Cross your forearms and lean your back to either side until your opposite shoulder blade lifts off the roller.
- Hold it for 30-60 seconds and switch sides.
The thoracic paraspinals are a group of muscles located in the back that help to provide posture, movement, and stability.
They include both the erector spinae and the multifidus muscle groups which start from the lower cervical spine, all the way down to the lumbar spine.
These areas also work to bend and rotate our bodies as needed for various activities.
10. Sea Saws
- Start with the foam roller under your mid back.
- Keeping your knees bent and butt on the ground, extend your arms over your chest.
- Begin rotating them overhead.
- Stop once they are in a straight line with your torso.
- Return them back to the over-chest position and repeat for 10-30 reps.
Thoracic sea saws are meant to add extra pressure and deep tissue release to your spine while laying on the foam roller.
This helps create tension between the shoulder blades and gently stretches away knots along the spine.
Who Should Do These Foam Roller Exercises?
The foam roller exercises above are a good idea for athletes, weekend warriors, and busy professionals.
Pretty much anyone who does physical activities or has a desk job will benefit from them.
Doing them every day before and after a workout for 5-10 minutes will help you warm up.
This will help prevent tight muscles from getting overworked, which can lead to injury.
They should be used for mild to moderate muscular pain, or stiffness due to postural imbalances, and long periods of sitting or working out.
Who Should Avoid Them?
Foam rolling is not recommended if you have a more serious injury such as a fracture, tear, or herniated disc.
If you are unsure, it is best to consult a medical professional before using any type of roller on your upper back or any other area.
The Do’s and Don’ts of Foam Rolling Your Upper Back
Foam rolling is a simple and convenient technique that anyone can do at home.
However, it’s important to know the right techniques and understand the do’s and don’ts before you get started.
- Start with shorter sessions as you get accustomed to the exercises.
- Keep your core engaged while rolling your upper back, this will help stabilize your body so you can roll more effectively.
- Apply more pressure gradually on the areas of tightness or pain.
- Roll the entire upper back, not just the area that’s in pain.
- Focus on breathing slowly when rolling over trigger points.
- Stop if you start to feel uncomfortable and speak with a medical professional.
- Roll too quickly, this won’t effectively target a specific area.
- Roll directly on your spine as this can be damaging to the bones and spinal discs.
- Roll over bony areas as this can lead to pain and discomfort.
- Ignore any areas of tightness or pain, as it’s important to work through them slowly and evenly.
- Try to foam roll more than once or twice a day as your body will need time to rest in between sessions.
FAQs Regarding Foam Rollers
Is Foam Rolling Good for Upper Back?
Yes, foam rolling is beneficial for the upper back.
It helps to reduce muscle strain and stiffness, improve range of motion and flexibility, decrease recovery time, as well as break up pesky knots.
How Do You Use a Back Roller for Upper Back Pain?
To use a back roller for upper back pain, place the roller on the floor and lay down with it perpendicular to your spine.
Slowly roll up and down your upper back using your feet to control the pressure and movement.
Focus on areas that feel particularly tight or sore, pausing briefly on them until you feel some relief before continuing rolling.
Stop when you need a break or have finished covering all areas of discomfort.
Summary: Add Foam Rolling to Your Workout Routine!
The 10 exercises outlined above are a great place to start if you’re looking for relief from neck, shoulder, and back discomfort.
When used regularly, foam rollers can help improve flexibility, range of motion, posture alignment, and overall muscle health.
All while reducing the risk of future injuries.
Remember that proper form is key when it comes to foam rolling.
Take care not to overdo it or put too much pressure on any one area at once as this could cause further injury or soreness.
With regular practice, these simple yet powerful exercises will have you feeling better in no time!