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If you sit at a desk all day, you’ve probably struggled with neck, shoulder and/or upper back pain at some point in your life.
One great way to alleviate some of those aches and pains is by foam rolling.
Foam rolling is basically a massage you can do to yourself.
So if you’ve ever harassed your friends or loved ones for more neck and shoulder massages, here are some ways you can do it yourself!
5 Foam Rolling Moves to Alleviate Neck, Shoulder and Upper Back Pain
All five of these moves target common areas of tightness in your upper body caused by sitting with poor posture at your computer all day.
And when rolling out, remember that the site of pain may not always be the cause of the problem. Even though your back may feel “tight,” you may have tightness in your chest which is actually causing the problem.
1. The Peanut – The Peanut is one of my favorite foam rolling tools for the back because it can be used all the way down your spine.
To use the Peanut on your upper back, you will place the balls on either side of your spine in your mid-back while lying on the ground.
Relax over the peanut and then “crunch” your upper body up. Do not crunch so high that you come up of the balls. You just want to tighten the muscles and then relax them.
By contracting the muscles and then relaxing them, you are helping to loosen up the muscles.
After performing 2 or 3 crunches, move the ball up higher on your spine and repeat. Crunch and then relax back over.
Repeat this all the way up your spine.
Make sure to hold and relax over the Peanut if you find any tight areas.
2. Chest Roll Out – Often when we have back and shoulder pain it is because our chest is tight from rounding forward over the computer. Even though we may feel like our back is tight, it may actually be that our chest muscles are shortened and tight and pulling everything forward so that our back muscles become lengthened and therefore “feel” tight.
Therefore, even though you are rolling out the place that “feels” tight, you won’t be correcting the problem.
To roll out your chest, a blue foam posture ball is a great tool.
Place the ball on the ground and lie face down on top of it with the ball right in your chest beside your shoulder joint. Then with the ball right to the inside of your shoulder, move your hand overhead and then back down toward your legs.
Move your arms slowly up and down to change exactly how the ball digs into your chest muscles. Hold and relax on any tight spots.
3. Lat Roll Out – Another spot that is often tight from sitting hunched over a computer all day is your lats.
To roll out your lats, place a roller under one armpit when you are lying on your side on the ground with your arm stretched out overhead.
Rock forward and backward on the roller and then move it lower down the side of your back. Hold on any tight spots as you go and make sure to rock forward and backward as you make your way down your side.
Work all the way from your armpit to the end of your rib cage.
4. Single Ball Upper Back Roll Out – If you have any tightness or knots in your upper back or shoulders, this move will help alleviate it.
To roll out your upper back with a ball, stand with your back to a wall and place the ball to the side of the base of your neck. Press the ball into the wall and roll it down along your shoulder blade.
Hold on any tight spots. You may even want to pull your arm across your chest as you dig out under the shoulder blade.
You can also use the ball against the wall to dig out right at the top of your armpit.
If you want to apply more pressure with the ball, you can use a harder ball or use the ball against the ground instead of the wall.
5. Roller Thoracic Extension – Often because we sit rounded forward all day, we lack thoracic extension, which can not only cause upper back, neck and shoulder pain but also potential injury.
To improve your Thoracic Extension, you can use a roller on the ground.
Lie back over the roller with the roller in your mid-back. Cross your hands over your chest and, keeping your butt on the ground, extend back over the roller. Try to touch your head to the ground behind you.
Then move the roller higher up on your back and, again with your butt on the ground, extend back over the roller.
Hold for a second or two as you extend and then move the roller higher up. Work all the way up your mid to upper back.
The Shoulder “U” – If you are super short on time and have a foam posture ball, the Shoulder “U” is a great way to hit your entire upper body in one move.
To do the Shoulder “U,” lie face down on the ground with the ball under your chest. Roll it right along the shoulder joint and then under your armpit to hit the side of your back.
Hold on any tight spots as you roll.
Then roll it around under your armpit to back between your shoulder blades. Work up and down the shoulder blade then roll it back around front.
Once you’ve rolled out one side and made a few circles, switch the ball to the other side and complete the “U around your shoulder and shoulder blade.
While this is a great move to quickly roll out everything, it will not dig into your upper body as much as a smaller ball and a smaller ball is tough to use on your chest on the ground. Do not only use this move and skip the 5 listed above. It is just a great quick all-in-one move if you are super short on time.
While foam rolling is a great way to start getting rid of neck, shoulder and upper back aches and pains, you also want to include stretching and activation exercises in your routine.
One great way to stretch and activate muscles at the same time is with Isometric Exercises. Here are 20 Isometric Exercises to open up and activate your upper body as well as other areas of your body that may be tight from sitting all day.