Foam Roller Exercises for Back, Shoulder, Hip & Sciatica Pain
Back pain is one of the most common ailments in the United States. In fact, according to the American Chiropractic Association, lower back pain affects about 31 million Americans on a daily basis. With jobs that require hours of sitting in front of a computer, the frequent rate of accidents and injuries, and countless Americans hitting the gym each day, it’s no wonder back pain is a leading complaint in doctor’s offices across the country.
The back comprises a complex structure of bones, ligaments, muscles, and joints. Even a simple action, like turning too quickly in a chair or bending over to pick something up off the floor can lead to serious back pain. Back pain is also often correlated with shoulder, neck, hip, and sciatica pain as well, leading to overall stiffness, soreness, and discomfort.
While it may seem like a massage and some strong medication are the only antidote to muscle soreness and joint stiffness, there’s actually a much easier—and affordable—option. Foam rolling exercises have been proven to relieve pain in a variety of areas, including the shoulders and lower back. Foam rollers essentially act in the same way as a massage, using applied pressure and movement to improve circulation and break up fibrous tissue, leaving users feeling less tension and pain. The best part? You can do these exercises in the comfort of your own home and you may start to feel pain relief in as little as ten minutes.
Foam Roller Exercises for Back Pain
Target area: Lower back
How to: Lay on your back with the foam roller placed horizontally underneath your lower back. Use a folded towel or small pillow to cushion the back of your head if this position causes discomfort. Slowly pull your right knee up to your chest, clasping your hands around your knee and gently hugging your knee in tighter. Gently roll from just below your rib cage on the right side to the top of your right glute. Do this about 10 to 15 times before releasing your knee and repeating on the opposite side.
Target area: Upper back and shoulders
How to: Place the roller horizontally beneath your shoulder blades while laying on your back. Keep your knees raised and feet flat on the floor. Slowly raise your hips so that your weight is shifted onto the roller. Cross your arms over your chest, then slowly roll from just below your shoulder blades to the base of your neck about 10-15 times.
Foam Roller Exercises for Shoulder Pain
Target area: Rotator cuff
How to: Lying on your side, place the foam roller horizontally beneath the base of your right armpit, bend your right arm, and bring your hand up to the side of your head. Your right leg should be extended and your left leg should be bent at a 90-degree angle with your knee pointed toward the ceiling and your foot flat on the ground behind your right leg. Shift your torso so that it is tilted back about 45 degrees; your chest should be angled slightly toward the ceiling. Gently move side to side, left to right, across the roller. After about 10-15 passes, roll gently in an upward and backward motion to target the shoulder blade/scapula area. Do this about 10-15 times, then repeat on the opposite side.
Foam Roller Exercises for Hip Pain
Target area: Hip flexors
How to: Lie face down, propping yourself up on your elbows with hands clasped and the foam roller positioned horizontally just below your right hip. Shift your left leg out to the side and bend your knee at a 90-degree angle so that your left leg is out of the way. Move your right leg so that is extended fully directly out behind you. Point your toes so that the top of your right foot is flat against the ground. Slowly roll forward and backward, as well as side to side. Continue rolling for about 30 seconds, focusing on any points that are especially stiff or sore. Then, repeat on the other side.
Foam Roller Exercise for Sciatica Pain
Target area: Lower back and glutes
How to: Start in a seated position with arms behind you for support and the foam roller horizontally under both glutes. Bring your left leg up, resting your left ankle on your right knee. Slowly roll onto your left hip about 10 to 15 times, moving in a steady motion. Repeat on the opposite side.
Foam Rolling Exercise Tips
Although it can be tempting to use a foam roller directly on the area that’s hurting you, it’s important to follow the proper exercises to target pain. Often, lower back pain or shoulder pain is not caused by the specific muscles in those areas, but may be the result of overexertion or stress on nearby muscle groups. Always roll slowly and smoothly, avoiding fast, jerky movements, as this can exacerbate problems.