Foam rolling exercises make a fantastic addition to your self-healing repertoire. This self-myofascial release technique can safely and effectively relieve tension, tightness, and pain in your back.

You can use these foam rolling exercises in conjunction with other healing approaches, such as massage, acupuncture, or hot and cold therapy.

Keep reading to learn about foam rollers, along with six exercises you can use to relieve soreness from strenuous exercise, get rid of aches and pains after a night’s rest, or take away the stress of the day.

A foam roller is a lightweight foam cylinder that you use to self-administer deep tissue massage. Foam rolling releases muscle knots, relieves inflammation, and improves overall comfort.

It can also increase your range of motion, flexibility, and mobility while boosting circulation and lymphatic flow.

Types of foam rollers

Foam rollers can vary in size and firmness to bring about different results. Depending on your needs, you can experiment with one or more of the following options:

  • Soft, low-density foam rollers are a gentle option suitable for people new to foam rolling or with a lot of sensitivities.
  • Firm, high-density foam rollers put more pressure on your body.
  • Textured foam rollers have ridges, grids, or knobs on them. They target your muscles more deeply.
  • Travel foam rollers are ideal for your arms and calves. The small size is optimal if you want to carry your roller to the gym or office.
  • Vibrating foam rollers use various settings to deeply loosen your muscles and release muscle knots. They can help to enhance circulation and flexibility.
  • Heat and cold foam rollers can be heated or cooled to deepen muscle relaxation and relieve discomfort.
  • Foam roller balls can target specific areas.
  • Foam rolling sticks can put pressure directly on areas of concern.

To relieve pain and tightness in your back, do these exercises three to four times per week, even if your symptoms improve. The key is to prevent or alleviate discomfort before it becomes chronic.

If you’re experiencing intense pain, wait until you recover before foam rolling.

You can do the exercises on their own or before or after a workout.

Make sure you align your body properly on the foam roller and use an exercise mat for cushioning. Use care when coming off the foam roller, and give yourself up to 1 minute to relax before repeating an exercise or moving on to the next.

1. Upper back

This stretch can help to relieve tension in your upper back and alleviate poor posture that stems from leaning or hunching forward often. It also helps to align your head, neck, and spine.

  1. Lie with a foam roller under your spine, supporting your head and tailbone.
  2. Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor.
  3. Spread your arms wide and out to the sides with your palms facing upward.
  4. Breathe deeply and relax into this position for up to 1 minute.
  5. Repeat 3 times.

2. Spinal alignment

This exercise aligns your spine and releases muscle knots, tightness, and tension. It promotes excellent posture and is useful for people who sit for extended periods. Avoid going lower than your mid-back, which is where your rib cage ends.

  1. Place the roller horizontally across your upper back, right below your shoulder blades.
  2. Bend your knees and press your feet firmly into the floor.
  3. Interlace your fingers at the base of your skull and lean back.
  4. Raise your hips slightly to move the roller up toward your shoulders.
  5. Focus on sensitive areas for at least 20 seconds.
  6. Work your way up to your shoulders. Then work your way down to your mid-back again.
  7. Repeat 4 to 5 times.

3. Lats (sides of back)

This stretch alleviates tension in the area below your underarms. This helps to improve your posture and improve mobility in your upper body.

  1. Lie on your right side with the foam roller under your shoulder.
  2. Keep your right leg on the floor for support and press your left foot firmly into the floor.
  3. Start just below your armpit and gently roll down toward your mid-back.
  4. Pause to target any sensitive or sore areas.
  5. Continue for up to 1 minute. Then do the opposite side.
  6. Repeat 2 to 3 times.

4. Low back

This exercise relieves tension in your low back. Avoid putting too much pressure on this area.

  1. Lie on your back and position the foam roller so it’s horizontally below your low back.
  2. Bend knees and press your feet firmly into the floor.
  3. Bend your knees into your chest, placing your hands behind your thighs or on your shins.
  4. Gently yield your weight to the right side, raising the left side of your low back off the foam roller.
  5. Hold this position a few seconds. Then gently rock to the left side.
  6. Continue yielding your weight from side to side for up to 1 minute.
  7. Repeat 2 to 3 times.

5. Core

This exercise strengthens your core, which helps to support posture, stability, and alignment.

  1. Lie with a foam roller along your spine, supporting your head and tailbone.
  2. Rest your arms alongside your body with your knees bent and your feet pressing into the mat.
  3. Engage your core muscles as you press your low back into the foam roller.
  4. Lift your right hand and left knee toward the ceiling.
  5. Lower back to the starting position.
  6. Then do the opposite side. This is 1 repetition.
  7. Do 1 to 3 sets of 8 to 16 repetitions.

6. Gluteus maximus

Relieving tension in your gluteus maximus helps to loosen up stiff legs while supporting the strength and stability of your low back.

To support the strength and stability of your low back, focus on relieving tension in your glutes, which also loosens up your legs.

  1. Sit on top of the foam roller so that it’s directly under your sitting bones.
  2. Place your hands behind your hips for support.
  3. Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor.
  4. Position your right ankle to the outside of your left knee.
  5. Place your left hand on your ankle or thigh, and gently lean to the right, feeling a stretch in your glutes.
  6. Roll from side to side, focusing on any sensitive areas.
  7. Hold each area for up to 30 seconds. Then do the opposite side.

Foam rolling has a wealth of benefits, and it’s worth checking out if you want to loosen up tight muscles, relieve soreness, and heighten feelings of relaxation.

The practice may help you to align your body and move with greater ease. Consider enhancing your relief by using a menthol muscle rub or essential oils before or after your routine, followed by a hot shower or bath.

Pay attention to your body and treat symptoms as soon as they arise, noticing which activities trigger symptoms.

If you continue to experience pain or if it gets worse, talk to a doctor, physiotherapist, or osteopath. They can help you figure out which muscles and exercises you should focus on and may recommend a specific type of foam roller.