Foam Roller Stretches For A Healthy Spine

Raise your hand if you have a foam roller gathering dust under your bed or in your closet. Well, what’s it doing there?! Your back muscles called, and they’re begging you to use it.  This activity has gained in popularity.  It is an active way to lengthen the muscles in your back and bring blood, oxygen and nutrients to the muscles, giving you a fantastic stretch.  Foam rollers can be used all over the body, but we will concentrate on the spine in this article.  Don’t have a foam roller?  We have access to a supplier and they are reasonably priced or you can get them on Amazon or anywhere sports and fitness equipment are sold.

Here are 4 key stretches for your back:

1.  Torso Stretch – Lay on roller length wise so roller follows your spine from between your shoulders to your lower spine.  Head extending past the roller end.  Bring your arms backward and open wide.  Let your arms fall to the floor on either side of your head.  This gives a good gentle stretch to the whole torso area.  This is very healing to the spine because we are always rounded forward in our daily lives.  You can then bring your arms down and position yourself a little lower on the roller so it is under your head and the entire length of your spine.  You then roll from side to side ever so slightly.  This works the spinal muscles on both sides and also helps you achieve core strength and balance.  You should feel a gentle stretch in your lower and mid back and between your shoulder blades.

2.  Thoracic Mid Back Stretch – Lay down on the roller so it is between you shoulders and mid back.  With your feet planted  roll up and down from shoulders to mid back.  Do this exercise for 60 to 90 seconds.

3. Low Back Stretch – Sit on the roller, roll forward with your feet planted so the roller is in contact with your lower back.  Roll from mid back to hips, roll back and forth for 60 to 90 seconds.  This stretch engages your core muscles and you should feel a good stretch.

4.  Static Stretch – Sit with roller behind you, lean back over roller and extend back with your shoulders on the floor.  Hold for 60 seconds.

Another area where a foam roller is very effective is your iliotibial band or I T Band.  Because of anatomical differences between women and men, women tend to have tighter outer thighs due to a wider pelvic brim.  Rolling the outer thighs can be particularly important for women to help with this tightness.  The following exercise will target the long band of connective tissue that runs from the outer hip to the outer knee known as the I T Band.  Foam rolling this area can decrease stress on your hip and/or knee. 

I T Band stretch – Lie on your side with the foam roller under your right hip.  Bracing your abs and glutes for balance, slowly roll down and back up about six inches.  Do this for 60 seconds. Switch to the other side and repeat.
If getting on the floor with your roller is difficult, you could try these exercises on a firm mattress.  The roller will not roll as well as if it were on the floor.

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