A foam roller may be just the thing you need to ease your neck pain. This styrofoam cylinder, often available at gyms, is a popular way for people to stretch their muscles or perform a self-massage.
When you use a foam roller to ease your neck pain, keep these tips in mind:
Roll out your knots
Slowly roll the foam roller until you find a tender spot or trigger point. Then apply gentle, steady pressure to that spot until pain subsides, but no longer than 60 seconds.
The foam roller can be used both vertically and horizontally to roll out trigger points in the mid- and upper- thoracic paraspinal muscles. When using it vertically, roll out each side of your spine separately. Crossing the arms on the chest helps to separate the shoulder blades to give better access to the paraspinal muscles.
Stretch your chest muscles
Tight chest muscles can lead to a hunched posture, which is a common contributor to neck pain. A foam roller can be used to perform a chest stretch, resetting your posture and ultimately protecting your neck.
- Place the foam roller vertically on the ground and sit on one end of it, your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
- Gently lie back on the foam roller so that it lines up with your spine. Do not move the foam roller or use it to apply pressure to your spine.
- Place your arms at your sides and hold this position for 30 seconds.
This position pulls your shoulders back and provides a relieving chest stretch.
Skip the lower back
Avoid using a foam roller on your lower back, especially when using it horizontally. Back muscles are rarely the cause of low back pain, and a foam roller may make other low back conditions worse. The area near the kidneys, for example, can be quite sensitive. Try beginner yoga poses or lower back stretches that target the lower back instead.
Stop if you feel severe pain
Foam rollers may cause slight pain or discomfort as they release muscle knots, but not severe pain. If you feel sharp or stabbing pain, stop immediately.
Consider other self-massage options
Because muscle knots in your neck or shoulders can be hard to reach, you may find that a self-massage device, such as a massage stick or a tennis ball, works better for you than a foam roller.
Using a foam roller—combined with stretching exercises, physical therapy, chiropractic manipulation, and/or medication—can be a simple, effective way to relieve neck pain. If you have chronic or severe neck pain, check with your doctor before using a foam roller.