Can a Foam Roller Relieve Upper Back Pain?

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Pain is a signal sent to your brain and interpreted as damage to your tissues and nerves, so it alerts you of any repairs needed to be executed to restore the optimal functioning of your body. There are many ways to manage pain, including exercises that you can simply do in the comfort of your home. Tools such as a foam roller can help facilitate those exercises for better pain relief results.

So what is a foam roller and how does it relieve upper back pain? A foam roller is used in foam roll exercises, which belongs to the category of alternative treatments that you can have for pain management. Foam roll exercises may be the only self-administered pain relief intervention, or combined with other pain management techniques to boost its effectiveness.

Foam Roller for Upper Back Pain Relief: How it Works

A foam roller is an exercise tool that is used for the self-administration of deep tissue massage. This lightweight foam cylinder is used for a self-myofascial release technique that is used to address chronic pain.

Foam rollers are used in foam roll exercises for the safe and effective release of tension, tightness, and pain in your upper back by releasing your muscle knots, relieving inflammation, and reducing any discomfort felt around the pain area.

What to Look for in an Upper Back Pain Roller

There are many types of foam rollers that you can use to ease your upper back pain, depending on your needs and current medical condition. Below is a table that shows the different foam roller options, as well as their uses.

Types of Foam RollersDescription
Low Density Foam RollerSoft foam rollers for beginners or those with specific sensitivities.
High density Foam RollerFirm rollers to add pressure on the site of damage.
Foam Roller BallsUsed to target specific areas.
Foam Rolling SticksUsed to put pressure directly on target areas.
Vibrating Foam RollerFoam rollers that are incorporated with a variety of settings to deeply loosen muscles, enhance circulation, and improve flexibility.
Heat and Cold Foam RollerEquipped with heating or cooling options for muscle relaxation and pain relief.
Textured Foam RollerRidges or knobs are incorporated for deeper targeting of muscles.
Travel Foam RollerSmall and portable foam rollers for arms and calves.

How to Use a Foam Roller for Upper Back Pain

Foam roller exercise can be used for chronic pain relief, but it may also have an advantage in preventing the escalation of pain, tension, and tightness in your back before it becomes chronic. 

Exercises with foam rollers may be done alone, or you can add it before or after an entire workout routine that suits your needs. However, a foam rolling exercise shouldn’t be done with intense pain. You should wait until the intense pain subsides before foam rolling to further alleviate any remnants of pain and discomfort that you’re currently experiencing.

Before you begin, make sure that your body is properly aligned on the foam roller. Don’t simply put the foam roller down on the floor, you should always use an exercise mat for extra cushion. Then after you finish your foam rolling routine, gently come off the foam roller, as you give yourself a minute to relax before repeating the foam roll routine or moving on to your next workout.

Foam roller routines are recommended to be done for 10 to 15 minutes, at about 1 to 4 times per day. A maximum 4 times a day may be done if you're trying to treat a certain injury. However, if you’re feeling too much pain during foam roller routines, it’s best to stop executing these routines at once.

Will Rolling on Tube Relieve Upper Back Pain?

Foam rolling is a soft tissue therapy technique that improves the quality of your back for total pain relief or pain prevention. Using a foam roller for the upper back is a safer option compared to using it for lower back pain, because the lower back doesn’t have enough bone support and foam rolling on your lumbar spine may be risky for your internal organs.

There are many ways to use a foam roller for upper back pain that will produce substantial results. There are certain stretches and exercises to help alleviate pain and discomfort around the area of damage. Many people use this to amplify their spine health, which may also be advantageous for their overall body health. 

Aside from pain relief, foam rolling can also be a preventive measure to improve back support to reduce the risk of having upper back pain symptoms by relieving muscle tension, shoulder pain, muscle soreness, and other tender spot areas around the upper body..

Foam rolling can help you enhance your flexibility by correcting the stiffness in your upper back. Indeed, foam rolling can really do wonders to your posture and upper back strength, which can already be sufficient to address any possible causes and sources of pain in the area.

Foam Roller for Shoulder and Upper Back Pain

Each shoulder blade is included in the upper back pain area that may be resolved by a foam roller. First, you need to vertically place the foam roller along the spine to help stretch the shoulders and spine simultaneously while maintaining a neutral position. Bend your knees and keep your arms resting on the ground. Afterwards, you may choose which routine to begin among the following:

  • Lat Rolls. This form roller exercise is started by sitting on your knees as the foam roller lies horizontally by your side. Place your left side against the roller at chest level, then bring your left arm up over the roller. Gently roll your body forward and backward, then you can also try rolling up and down along your side. Do this 10 to 15 times and repeat on the other side.
  • Snow Angel. This routine merely requires you to create a snow angel by lifting your arms up and down on the ground. If you feel some sort of pain or discomfort, you may adjust the range of your arm lifts. Complete this routine 10 to 15 times while gradually increasing range as much as you can.

How to Foam Roll for Upper Middle Back Pain

Foam roller exercise to relieve upper middle back pain may be as simple as merely lying on a foam roller horizontally for 20 to 30 seconds. Taking deep breaths is important to regulate the oxygen that goes into your body. Next, move up and down to hit the sore muscles or tender spot areas to be treated in the area. After the initial steps, you may choose between the following options:

  • Back Roll. This technique is similar to the starting position, except that your hands are behind your head as you lift your butt off the ground and slowly roll up and down the entire mid-back. Roll up and down for 10 to 15 times.
  • Thoracic Pivots. With knees bent, feet flat on the ground, and your hands behind your head, move the foam roller down to push the spine downwards as you arch your middle back. Moving in a slow and controlled motion while taking deep breaths is recommended. Do this for 10 to 15 times at every treatment spot.

Foam Roller Exercises for Upper Back Pain

Aside from the given exercises mentioned in the previous sections which are specifically targeting areas in the upper back for pain relief, below are more foam roller exercises for upper back pain:

  • Roll Out Technique. Keep your feet flat on the floor as you lay on the foam roller that’s positioned under your mid-back, specifically the problem area. Put your hands behind your ears as you put your elbows out wide. Next, move the foam roller up and down for 20 to 30 seconds.
  • Pec Stretch. Place the foam roller vertically behind your back, parallel to the spine. Lay on the foam roller by using the top for head support and the bottom part for pelvis support. Bend your knees and keep your spine flat on the foam roller. Next, hold your arms out in front of you then open it wide. Try to place the back of your hands on the floor and reach for the ground. Do this for 3 minutes.
  • Open Book. This may be done without a foam roller, but it may be perfect for knee support so it’s better to try this routine with a foam roller. Lay on your left side with your arms extended out, the palm of your hands facing each other, and your right knee bent and supported by the foam roller. Keep your leg on the foam roller as you rotate to your right, hands still extending out. Repeat this 2 more times, and do the same for the other side.

Benefits of Foam Rolling for Upper Back Pain

Foam rolling improves your back support to avoid upper back pain by increasing your mobility while promoting healthy blood flow in the area to avoid any tissue or nerve damage that can cause pain. The benefits of foam rolling include the following:

  • Enhances Flexibility. Foam roll exercises enhance tissue flexibility as it focuses on restoring the range of motion within tight muscle areas as well as the myofascial area or connective tissue. This may also affect any pain felt in the rib cage or chest muscle area.
  • Improves Posture. There are different ways in which a foam roller may be used to train and stretch the spine to reduce the negative effects of poor posture.
  • Strengthens Core. The dimensions of a foam roller, which is a cylindrical-shaped exercise tool, provides instability which may improve your balance and strengthen your core.
  • Boosts Circulation. Having enough blood flow in areas of the body promotes the constant healing and muscle recovery that is necessary to support the normal function of areas in the body.
  • Gentle Joint Mobility. A foam roller may improve the mobility of the upper spine, which is an area in which stiff and immoble joints are common due to overuse. This emphasizes the advantage of foam rolling on the thoracic spine.

All of the benefits of foam rolling improve the quality of the muscles, tissues, and blood flow in your upper back that results in the primary advantage of using a foam roller: for pain relief.

Roll Away Upper Back Pain with Effective Pain Management at Gramercy Pain Center

Finding the right foam roller for upper back pain relief is important to effectively reduce muscle tension, neck pain, shoulder pain, muscle tightness, and other forms of pain. Foam roll techniques don't need a physical therapist to be administered, however, a qualified professional with sufficient knowledge on physical therapy may be required if pain persists.

If you’re looking for other pain management techniques that may also be suited for neck pain and low back pain, you may consult Gramercy Pain Center. Our integrated approach to pain management ensures effective results as we combine physical therapy with home exercises, medications, and other minimally invasive interventions and procedures.

Schedule your initial consultation with Dr. Varma or Dr. Valimahomed today and see what Gramercy Pain Center can do for you.

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